October 1, 2008
Does U.S. News lock us into using the LSAT for Admissions?
Brian Leiter recently (and properly) critiqued a new admissions program at Michigan Law as an attempt to game the U.S. News rankings. In short, the new program will admit students who are Michigan undergrads provided they DON'T take the LSAT. The purpose of this requirement, it seems, is that it allows Michigan Law to take students on the margin without hurting their LSAT-based U.S. News rank.
It is hard to figure out how the requirement not to take the LSAT is anything other than a dodge around taking a hit in the rankings. This incident, though, also raises an intriguing question. Some colleges are now de-emphasizing or phasing out the SAT as an admission criteria. Would law schools be dissuaded from doing the same (relative to the LSAT) because it would smack them in the rankings?
-- Mark Osler
September 30, 2008
A survey-based examinitation of "law school success"
I just noticed on SSRN this interesting-looking new paper by Leah Christensen, titled "Predicting Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement, and the Declining Self-Efficacy of Our Law Students." Here is the abstract:
The study presented in this article asked 157 law students to respond to a survey about their learning goals and motivations for learning in law school. The student responses were correlated to different academic variables, including class rank, LSAT scores, and undergraduate GPA. The study also explored whether any relationships existed between goal orientations (mastery or performance) and law school success (class rank).
The results were illuminating: Despite the performance-based curriculum of law school, the most successful students were mastery-oriented learners. In contrast, there was no statistical correlation between performance-oriented learning and law school success. Furthermore, the LSAT score was the weakest predictor of law school success. The results also illustrated something else about successful law students: There was a cost to their success. Despite high achievement and mastery-oriented learning styles, the more successful law students were also more likely to doubt their individual abilities to understand and apply the law. In this study, highly ranked law students rated themselves low on academic self-efficacy measures. Low self-efficacy is a trait more typically associated with performance-orientation. What accounts for this result? The answer may lie within legal education's goal structure: a structure completely oriented towards performance.
Posted by DAB
Future of the Law School Coursebook wrapup
My own takeaways:
- We need to distinguish strongly between electronic distribution of textbooks and new methods of creating/authoring them.
- We need a new word other than "book" (or coursebook or casebook or textbook) to describe the resources that today's law teacher requires -- from audiovisual examples to simulations to traditional texts.
- Whatever new systems emerge, they must feature some combination of generativity or interoperability to ensure flexibility, innovation, and cost-effectiveness.
- Traditional legal publishers are making good-faith efforts to keep up with needs, but they cannot lead -- it is up to the legal academy to figure out what we want. Furthermore, some of them may be hamstrung due to shareholder demands for profit, legal/copyright caution, or lack of the right personnel to drive change. They may be able to overcome these barriers, or they may not. Either way, law schools must lead.
- Keep an eye on technology companies entering the market from unexpected directions -- whether Amazon, Google, or some hot startup we've never heard of. The legal textbook market is not a very big one, but it might be ripe, low-hanging fruit for some of these players.
- Gene Koo