Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

1L Is The New Bar Prep

Sabrina DeFabritiis (Suffolk), 1L Is the New Bar Prep, 51 Creighton L. Rev. 37 (2017):

Law school graduates, in growing numbers, are failing the bar exam. This reality is all the more staggering when we consider that these graduates have been preparing for the bar exam since their first year of law school. First-year legaI-writing courses teach students specific fundamental skills that are the foundation for success on the bar exam. This Article provides the perspective that the goal of passing the bar exam and teaching Iaw students to think and write like lawyers is a symbiotic relationship. It directly analyzes the correlation between the fundamental skills associated with thinking like a lawyer and successful bar-essay writing.

The question then becomes, if law schools are teaching these skills, why do students continue to struggle with the bar exam? To answer that question, this Article analyzes the challenges law students face when they are required to apply the skills learned in in earlier context to a later assignment. Without proper instruction and sustained practice, it is unrealistic to expect law students to retain the skills necessary to solve one legal problem and then later apply those same skills to solve a different problem. This Article emphasizes how law schools have a duty to bridge the gap and foster the transfer of learning from the first year of law school to bar preparation. To guide law schools in better preparing their students for passing the bar exam, this Article concludes with a comprehensive approach detailing how law faculties can facilitate the transfer of fundamental skills from the beginning to the end of law school.

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Bar passage rates only declined after law schools instituted curriculum reforms to address the supposed employment crisis. For years, law schools recruited top legal talent to train law students. Candidates to teach law were expected, at a minimum, to have graduated from a top law school, to have clerked for a Federal Judge, and to have worked for a top law firm. The results speak for themselves. Bar passage rates and graduate employment rates often exceeded 90%. During the great recession, some struggling law grads tried blaming their law schools for their woes rather than the downturn in the economy. Law school administrators tried to appease critics by reforming the curriculum to produce practice ready graduates. The administrators hired far less qualified candidates to teach law. Now a growing number of law school graduates are failing the bar because of the poor hiring decisions of law school administrators.

Thankfully, despite the curriculum changes, employers were not deterred from hiring law school graduates. The demand for employees with legal training far exceeds the supply. Once again, over 90% of law school graduates were employed or pursuing advanced degrees last year. Median salaries for law school graduates was in the mid-$60,000 range last year, earning far more than college graduates. As has been proven in numerous studies and yet to be contradicted, the lifetime earnings of a law school graduate far exceeds the earnings of an individual with a terminal bachelor’s degree. And per the BLS statistics, last year was a banner year for the legal profession. Let us hope the poor decision making by law school administrators does not spill over into the legal market.

Posted by: Bar Passage | Dec 27, 2017 8:25:13 PM

Here's an idea. Law schools should hire more law professors who actually practiced law, and fewer Ph.D.s and SCOTUS law clerks who never did. Just a thought.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 27, 2017 3:51:16 PM