Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Sociolegal Research, The Law School Survey Of Student Engagement, And Studying Diversity In Judicial Clerkships

Shih-Chun Steven Chien (American Bar Foundation; Google Scholar), Ajay K. Mehrotra (Northwestern; Google Scholar) & Xiangnong Wang (J.D. 2020, Yale), Sociolegal Research, the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, and Studying Diversity in Judicial Clerkships, 69 J. Legal Educ. 530 (2020):

This article highlights how long-term empirical and interdisciplinary research projects can benefit from use of Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) data. After identifying and explaining how and why LSSSE data is invaluable for scholars studying legal education and the legal profession, the paper describes how empirical and interdisciplinary, sociolegal research at the American Bar Foundation (ABF) and elsewhere has used LSSSE data. Finally, this paper leverages LSSSE evidence to explore law student career preferences and expectations about judicial clerkships.

LSSSE is an extraordinary asset for examining a vast array of topics related to the educational experiences of law students. By focusing on student oriented surveys, LSSSE provides law schools and researchers an invaluable opportunity to delve into a wide range of issues dealing with the law student experience, including the career preferences and expectations of students throughout their law school years. In particular, there remains a wealth of opportunity for scholars interested in using LSSSE data to explore issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal education and the profession.

The ABF’s nascent project on diversity and judicial clerkships is just one modest example of how researchers can take advantage of LSSSE data to tackle the pressing concerns facing legal education and the profession. The lack of diversity among judicial clerks is the focus of increasing attention and an animating force behind proposals to reform the clerkship application and selection process. Understanding how race, gender, and socioeconomic status intersect with students’ career perceptions is a vital first step in informing this ongoing inquiry. Such insights play an instrumental role in how we approach any future study of diversity and judicial clerkships. We hope other scholars will join us in engaging with LSSSE data to address the enduring issues that will shape the future of legal education and the profession.

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