Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Improving Legal Education Through Data

Evan Parker (Parker Analytics), What Is an Excellent Legal Education? Answers Based on Data:

The data exist to make legal education measurably better.


Figure 1 above uses data from the 2020 Law School Survey of Student of Engagement (LSSSE) to visualize 10 average score “distributions” based on responses from 12,969 law students at 68 participating U.S. law schools. The distributions are at the law school level. Thus, for all ten measures, each participating law school’s average score exists somewhere within the orange-yellow-grey-blue-green distribution. The grey is the fat part of the underlying bell curve (25-75th percentiles). In addition, each Figure 1 measure maps to one or more of the ABA’s Accreditation Standards (see references in brackets).

Figure 1 is an example of what data-driven education assessment looks like—a theory of quality is embedded inside the Accreditation Standards. Performance on those standards is measured using data. As part of an ongoing and iterative process, data clearly guides law schools through how to improve. Likewise, as overall averages trend upward, legal educators and regulators can credibly say, “The quality of US legal education is improving.” ...

In this post, I use LSSSE data to evaluate U.S. legal education quality, first on ABA Accreditation factors (Figures 1-2) and then on a broader set of LSSSE factors crucial to overall student satisfaction (Figure 3). ...

In this analysis, we’ve seen both how some schools outperform others and how generally, schools’ average scores rise or fall together. And crucially, we’ve also got direct information about how to address specific outcomes. What we know from the survey is certain factors predict an “excellent” response. Rather than speculating about what needs to change, we can get to work building educational initiatives and programs that support student needs today and in the future.

Finally, as legal educators and innovators work to enhance the value of attending law school in the midst of a global pandemic—a key need with applications down as much as 4%—I’d recommend they focus on data. This post offers insight about what students find most valuable and what they believe schools fail to provide. Calls for increasing access through technology notwithstanding, we’ve seen here that some of the most important features of the law school experience will be difficult to replicate remotely.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


It is unfortunate that Evan’s data are not distributed on a school-specific basis as widely as the US News rankings, which to some extent are based on perceptions that have nothing to do with the quality of the education provided nor the likelihood that students will get jobs at compensation levels sufficient to service their debt loads. Evan, perhaps this is a business opportunity for you: convince one of the many legal publications to publish an annual directory with this data. Any of these factors has to be more important than the number of books in a school’s library and other US News factors that are subject to manipulation by the ranking engineers.

Posted by: Tom Sharbaugh | Aug 26, 2020 4:16:56 AM