Indiana University

In 2009, Indiana University (IU) introduced a legal professions course into the 1L curriculum. This course teaches competencies that go beyond learning the law, placing special emphasis on a goal-oriented, collaborative approach to legal work. The LSSSE survey includes a number of questions that touch on these aspects of professional development. For example, one question asks students to report how often they work effectively with others.

To assess whether the curricular change was influential, Figure 1 plots the average scores on this question from 2006 to 2014. The figure compares the scores for 1Ls at IU versus 1Ls at peer schools. In 2008 (the year before the legal professions course was introduced), IU’s 1Ls reported a signifcantly lower level of effective collaboration than 1Ls at its peer schools. From 2009 forward, however, IU students’ effective collaboration scores increased steadily. The results of this analysis indicate that the legal professions course makes IU’s 1L experience truly distinctive.

Working Effectively with Others

Northeastern University School of Law

Northeastern University School of Law (NUSL) has a unique experiential curriculum. A core feature of the curriculum is its co-op placement program, which places 2Ls and 3Ls in real practice settings. The co-ops, many of which are paid, require that students work directly with a variety of legal professionals — from attorneys in private practice to public defenders and judges.

A number of LSSSE questions measure outcomes that have obvious relevance to the co-op model and its core purpose. Perhaps the best example is a question that asks about the extent to which students acquired job- or work-related knowledge. Figure 2 reports the average scores on this question for NUSL (red lines and dots) versus its peer schools. Northeastern’s 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls all give signi cantly higher ratings than their counterparts at peer schools. Co-ops give NUSL students hands-on experience and knowledge that can jumpstart their professional careers.

1L

2L

3L

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Washington and Lee University School of Law recently used LSSSE results in its analysis of a completely reimagined third year curriculum, which began in 2009. LSSSE data was collected at three strategic intervals (a baseline measurement in 2004, a “before” picture gathered in 2008, and a follow-up look in 2012). This allowed W&L a lens into whether the intended consequences of its curricular innovation is being experienced and interpreted by students in ways intended by the faculty and administration. The results illustrated important changes in areas that W&L expected and desired, and stability in other areas where no change was expected.
In writing about Washington and Lee’s 3L experiential year, William Henderson, Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law noted: “The example of the Washington & Lee 3L experiential year ought to be a watershed for legal education. We can no longer afford to ignore data. Through LSSSE, high quality comparative data are cheap and comprehensive. And that information, as we have seen, can significantly improve the value of a legal education.”

Southwestern Law

Southwestern Law used LSSSE to update its curriculum. Following on the momentum and success of the initiatives to enhance the traditional first-year experience, the Southwestern faculty adopted several exciting curricular innovations for the upper division.

Three new programs, Capstone Course, a January Intersession, and Floating Mini-Term courses, were recently integrated into the curriculum. They are designed to encourage student engagement during the second, third, and (where applicable) fourth years of study, respond to issues identified through the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), and extend the momentum created by Southwestern's new first-year curricular reforms. The latter have been well received by students and commended by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

University of Florida School of Law

Jerry notes that student satisfaction with career development rose dramatically during Bishop’s tenure and under the leadership of Associate Dean for Student Affairs Rachel Inman, to whom the Assistant Dean for Career Development now reports.

Jerry cited the national Law School Survey of Student Engagement that UF Law participates in every other year and to which half the college’s students responded.  Student satisfaction improved significantly for career services from two years earlier. “But we are committed to continuous improvement in all of our services, so there is still more that we will do,” Jerry added.