Self-Check: Are We Paying Attention to Developments in the Profession?


Guest Post
Marsha Griggs
Associate Professor of Law
Saint Louis University School of Law

The BlueBook® is in its twenty-first edition and for the last fifteen years has been available online as well as in its original spiral-bound print version.[1]  I could not imagine publishing a Law Review article, submitting a court brief, or teaching a Legal Writing course without consulting the most current edition of the BlueBook. Although I don’t care about uniform citation guides for my day-to-day writing tasks, I understand the expectation of proper citation for formal writing projects.

To meet that expectation, I gratefully rely upon my research assistants and the meticulous eye of journal editors. I am out of practice with my “blue booking” skills, because I consistently hire someone else to do it for me. I know that many other mid-career faculty and law practitioners can relate. Thankfully, LSSSE Survey data show that law students benefit from working on legal research tasks with faculty outside of class assignments. Although student research responsibilities for faculty and journals often fall outside the experiential education radar, these tasks are important to practice readiness.

While it is perfectly fine for me to outsource necessary cite checking to a student or even to an A.I. tool like ChatGPT, I am still ultimately responsible for my written product. The same is true about our professional responsibilities as lawyers. We can and should rely on available technology and skilled providers who can aid us in delivering legal services and establishing and enforcing laws and policies. But we must do so with a conscious awareness that tools, practices, policies, and laws are constantly subject to change.

Lawyers and legal educators have an ethical obligation to engage in continuing study and education to keep abreast of changes in law practice and legal rules, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.[2] That obligation includes keeping up with changing  rules for attorney licensure. Yet very few law professors and even fewer attorneys in practice understand the previous and proposed sweeping changes in attorney admission, including who creates and controls the bar exam.

Outsourcing a specific legal task—like research or cite checking, is not the same thing as outsourcing a regulatory function—like licensing attorneys. In a forthcoming article, Outsourcing Self-Regulation, I address how states have contracted with outside providers to produce bar exam questions and to score the exams. Like my outsourced blue booking, it saves time and results in a higher quality product. But when the outsourcing of a responsibility is combined with inattention or lack of supervisory accountability, it becomes delegation of a regulatory power or duty. Such a shifting of regulatory authority threatens the autonomy of the legal profession.

Today, bar exam questions are almost uniformly written and selected by the NCBE. [3] The NCBE has successfully lobbied for a single unform exam to replace the varied individual state law exams. The widespread adoption of a Uniform Bar Exam has privatized bar admission to the point that states no longer have control (or even input) into the content, scope, or timing of their licensing exam. The privatization of the bar exam is at odds with the cornerstone principle of resolute self-regulation and freedom from external influence.

The planned debut of the NextGen bar exam in 2026 threatens to further weaken the judicial autonomy in attorney admission.[4] Dangerously little is known about this new exam and law schools too are fully at the mercy of NCBE for crumbs of information about the next exam. We cannot effectively help our students to prepare for licensure if we ourselves are unfamiliar with the licensure exam and its format and cannot verify its validity.

The LSSSE Survey data show that law students feel that law schools have generally prepared them for work-related tasks and supported them in developing career goals and personal ethics.

A quantifiable component of preparing law students for the practice of law is preparing them for the bar exam that allows them entry into law practice.

The pathway to becoming an attorney in the United States typically involves attending and graduating from law school, and successful completion of some competency assessment. All but a few U.S. jurisdictions use performance on a bar examination as a proxy for minimum competence to practice law. Since the genesis of licensure by examination, the format, content, scoring, and source of bar exams have been contentious issues in the legal profession.[5] The arguments for and against the use of bar exams are too great to  list or summarize here, but—however it is measured—law schools are responsible for ensuring that their graduates are minimally competent to  deliver  legal services directly to clients upon completion of the program of legal education.

As members of a self-regulated profession, we have a responsibility not only to know about the scope of the regulatory exam, but also to set the standards for what the regulatory exam should measure and how it should do so. We must pay attention to developments in attorney licensing if we aim to continue to meet the needs of our students who will pursue licensure.



[1] The BlueBook: A Uniform System  of Citation R.15.8(c)(v), at 154 (Columbia L. Rev. Ass’n et al. eds., 21st ed. 2020).

[2] American Bar Assoc’n Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 Comment 8.

[3] The National Conference of Bar Examiners is a not-for-profit corporation with its principal office in Wisconsin.


[5] See e.g. Joan W. Howarth, Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing (2023), and Marsha Griggs, Building a Better Bar Exam, 7 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 1 (2019).

Classroom participation by gender identity: 2023 update

In a 2018 blog post, we showed a long-standing pattern of class participation by gender among law students in which men engage more frequently in class discussions than women. Although the percentage of students who frequently ask questions in class or contribute to class discussions has fluctuated over time, the gap between men and women has stayed remarkably consistent since the inaugural LSSSE survey in 2004. How does this pattern look five years later?

Through a pandemic, a switch to online learning, and a switch back to in-person learning, the pattern has continued to be remarkably consistent. In 2023, 61% of male law students “often” or “very often” participated in class compared to only 55% of female students. Students of another gender identity also generally participate in class more often than women, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of them frequently asking questions or contributing to class discussions in 2023.

However, it appears that there are differences among classes in terms of participation by gender. 1L women are much less likely than 1L students of other genders to frequently ask questions or contribute to discussions, but 3L women are only somewhat less likely to do so relative to 3L students of other genders. Perhaps women gain confidence across their years as a law student or perhaps they become major contributors to class discourse only once they can be reasonably sure that their voices will be heard and respected.


Nonetheless, men and people of other gender identities are still slightly more likely to frequently ask questions or contribute to discussions even in that final year of law school. Finding ways to encourage women to participate in class conversations earlier will allow them to engage more meaningfully with their entire legal education in addition to elevating the discourse of the law classroom for all students.

The Power of Critical Legal Research



The Power of Critical Legal Research
Priya Baskaran
American University Washington College of Law


Every year students ask me which classes are “the most important” to prepare them for successful and fulfilling legal careers. Should they focus on Bar classes or load up on Business Law for future corporate practice? Or should they opt for a seminar that will really engage their interest in human rights or environmental justice? Inevitably many students seek me out because as a professor at the top ranked clinical program at American University Washington College of Law, I actively engage in the practice of law. I also closely supervise and ultimately grade my clinic students on their own lawyering skills. The students who seek my advice do so because they are keen to acquire the skills and training to lawyer well. My response often surprises students: Take an advanced legal research class and focus on Critical Legal Research.

Legal research is too often conflated with navigating a commercial search database as quickly as possible. In reality, legal research is a complex, dynamic, and iterative process that requires a combination of critical thinking, analysis, strategy, and perseverance. Legal research is also a large part of the average attorney’s work life, particularly early career attorneys.[1] Finally, and most importantly in my mind, developing strong legal research foundations is essential to solving complex, real-world problems. This latter point is only increasing in relevance with the continued growth of generative AI.

Legal research provides students with a primer in intersecting legal regimes, showcasing how various subjects we teach in self-contained classes actually combine and impact the facts of any given case or circumstance.[2] Legal research then teaches students how to critically examine and sort these intersections into tiers of relevance for their various research questions and research tasks. Finally, legal research focuses on creating search plans and strategies. This includes understanding where they find this information – specialized secondary sources, primary authorities practice related resources, even specialized databases. Students also actively analyze and evaluate the results of their searches, making thoughtful and critical determinations when sorting and prioritizing information.[3]

A properly taught legal research class excels in equipping students with the skills essential to good lawyering: 1) complex problem solving by researching messy or novel situations, 2) practical training in a core lawyering skill – legal research, 3) the ability to engage in active learning by directly researching, and 4) developing critical thinking and analysis skills. We see from LSSSE data that a majority of law students do learn these skills in law school.

*Students responding “quite a bit” or “very much”

In particular, a number of schools are increasingly using critical information literacy and Critical Legal Research to teach legal research. Critical legal information literacy is a pedagogy that challenges conceptions of legal research databases as neutral or comprehensive. Instead, critical information literacy teaches students that legal information is intentionally curated and categorized, often for commercial purposes.[4] This teaches students to be careful, thoughtful readers when their search results skew in favor of the status quo. Similarly, Critical Legal Research (CLR) builds on critical legal information literacy and incorporates critical legal theories and methodologies into the legal research process.[5] CLR challenges students to rethink their research questions, research strategies, and develop more expansive and thoughtful research plans in order to account for systemic bias. CLR underscores how the existing commercial search databases can entrench hegemonic interests, harming novel arguments that can advocate for more just outcomes.[6]

Take for example the case of a retail employee in June 2020. The employee works for a popular coffee chain that has been deemed “an essential business” during the COVID-19 epidemic. The employee routinely has to interface with customers who refuse to follow the safety protocols required by the county health department, including masking. Her manager requires employees still serve these customers despite the violation of the county health code and the CDC requirements. The employee finds her current work situation untenable for a number of reasons. First, she is deeply troubled by the request to break county law by violating the health department’s mandate. Second, she is concerned for her safety and the safety of her family (including an immunocompromised dependent). She feels like she has no choice but to quit her job but is worried about qualifying for unemployment insurance benefits.

We can immediately issue spot many complicated legal problems that will arise from this case. We can also identify the person being impacted by these “justice” issues – a worker facing both economic precarity and unsafe working conditions. Finally, we should be able to recognize that legal precedent will be exceedingly thin as June 2020 was still the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Building a case with little to no case law requires creative thinking and creative research strategies. What other sources may prove informative or be persuasive? Are there corollaries we can draw to other illnesses or other jurisdictions we should use to build our argument? Finally, we must identify and discuss that justice – when it goes against the dominant interests – requires creative and tireless advocacy on the part of the attorney.

Moreover, the continued growth of generative AI requires that we are even more thoughtful in training students.[7] A poorly trained student will use generative AI as a crutch, adding minimal to no value and simply regurgitating the algorithms findings.  A well-trained researcher will identify the shortcomings of the AI tools, creating a comprehensive search plan and strategy that acknowledges and mitigates these flaws. For example, an AI tool may write a briefing memo summarizing the findings and state that the worker has little precedent and therefore a weak case. A well-trained researcher will be able to understand why this AI argument is insufficient for the client and for greater justice. The researcher may even be able to use this AI answer to play devil’s advocate, building a more creative response to counter the points generated by the status quo algorithm.

There is no shortage of conversation surrounding AI in law schools. In addition to discussing academic integrity and ethics, we must use this moment to explore critical pedagogies. How can we as professors help our students understand the blindspots of commercial AI? How can we train them to become better thinkers, lawyers, and advocates by exposing them to the limitations and injustice implications of both AI and traditional research? The answer may lie in leveraging critical legal information literacy and CLR in our own classes and pedagogies.

Although legal research is often limited to the first year curriculum, there are ample opportunities for instructors to engage with the topic in other courses. My forthcoming article, Searching for Justice: Incorporating Critical Legal Research in Clinic Seminar, includes a bibliography of scholarly work and pedagogical tools created by librarians and experts in the field. Professors can and should scaffold student learning by leveraging Critical Legal Research within their pedagogies, training more thoughtful and critical attorneys.



[1] Noting that new attorneys spend an average of one third of their time researching. Steven A. Lastres, Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age 3 (2013), https://www.lexis [].


[3] Sarah Valentine, Legal Research as a Fundamental Skill: A Lifeboat for Students and Law Schools, 39 U. Balt. L. Rev. 173, 201 (2010).

[4] Yasmin Sokkar Harker, Legal Information for Social Justice: The New ACRL Framework and Critical Information Literacy, 2 Legal Info. Rev. 19,43 (2016-2017).

[5] .Nicholas F. Stump, Following New Lights: Critical Legal Research Strategies as a Spark for Law Reform in Appalachia, 23 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 573, 603 (2015); Nicholas Mignanelli, Critical Legal Research: Who Needs It?, 112 LAW LIBR. J. 327 (2020).

[6] Nicholas F. Stump, COVID, Climate Change, and Transformative Social Justice: A Critical Legal Research Approach, 47 WM. & MARY ENVTL. L. & POL’Y REV. 147 (2022).

[7] For a fuller exploration of the intersection between generative and legal research, I recommend reading: Nicholas Mignanelli, Prophets for an Algorithmic Age, 101 B.U. Law Rev. 41, 44 (2021).

A CRT Assessment of Law Student Needs

Meera E Deo, JD, PhD
The Honorable Vaino Spencer Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School
Director, Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE)



For over a century, American policy makers have recognized the need to provide personal support to students in primary and secondary school. Many states, including California, offer free or reduced lunch to students in need. Nurses and counselors are often available on campus to provide medical attention, academic guidance, and mental health support. Despite our clear understanding of the importance of these structures of support for children in the K-12 educational system, there are few mechanisms to support students in higher education. Yet many students in college, graduate school, and professional school also struggle to meet their basic needs.

In my new article, “A CRT Assessment of Law Student Needs,” and the accompanying Fact Sheet, I seek to convince policymakers that law students also need both administrative and legislative support to help them survive and thrive academically as well as professionally. LSSSE data show law students have been struggling to recover from the heightened challenges they endured during the early years of the pandemic. Struggles with food insecurity, financial anxiety, and emotional strain contribute to declining academic success, particularly for populations that were marginalized on law school campuses long before COVID. Legislative support is necessary to support students through this era so they can maximize their full potential.

Applying a CRT Framework

When we consider the CRT tenets of intersectionality and the compound effects resulting from those with devalued raceXgender characteristics specifically, it becomes evident that women of color law students are particularly at risk of falling behind or leaving law school altogether without greater support. The CRT concept of praxis further urges scholars to not only theorize about challenges and opportunities, but to put proposals into practice to achieve real change. Merging empirical methods with CRT, a new model of  eCRT scholars “seek to rethink and change the premise of race scholarship in general by eschewing theoretical and methodological silos in pursuit of deepening our understanding of race and racism to advance racial justice.” Here, LSSSE data coupled with CRT theories are particularly instructive.

LSSSE Findings on Law Student Needs

In 2021, LSSSE asked students about their experiences Coping with COVID. What they shared remains deeply disturbing, and even more so when we consider raceXgender effects. Women of color suffered with high levels of food insecurity—including 58% of Black women and 65% of Latinas who had increased concerns about whether they had enough food to eat.

Students also reported declines in their physical health. For every racial group, higher percentages of women than men noted these declines—including 81% of Latinas (and 72% of Latino men).

Most students also managed depression (85%) and anxiety (87%) that interfered with daily functioning—again, with marked raceXgender effects that bear out the CRT literature. For instance, while 73%–81% of white men, Black men, and multiracial men reported increased anxiety, a full 93% of white women, 90% of Black women, and 91% of multiracial women experienced the same.

Struggles to meet their basic needs resulted in numerous missed opportunities for interaction with classmates and professors. One out of every five student respondents to the 2021 LSSSE survey (19%) never spoke with professors or other advisors about career plans or their job search. One third (33%) never discussed ideas from readings or classes with faculty members outside of class. There were also fewer opportunities for students to work with faculty on activities other than coursework (including committees, orientation, and student life activities); a full 51% of students never worked with faculty on these projects outside of class. Unsurprisingly, given all of these struggles, students also reported decreases in academic success, with women from most racial groups suffering more than men.


Institutional and Legislative Support

Most institutions already have a foundation to support students. But we can do better. In “A CRT Assessment of Law Student Needs,” I propose numerous options for administrators and policymakers to consider. For instance, while many campuses have food pantries to combat food insecurity, they should go beyond a locked room full of cans to prioritize accessibility by being open long hours or 24 hours, without an appointment or sign-in requirement, and on various parts of campus (not just one location that may be difficult for law students to access). Drawing from the CRT literature, food pantries should stock not only canned goods but also gift cards so students from varying backgrounds can purchase traditional or ethnic foods and fresh fruits and vegetables, and otherwise have agency over their food consumption.

Given increases in student anxiety and depression, law schools also should make mental health counseling available—with a focus on quality and accessibility for vulnerable populations. Counseling sessions should be free or low cost, with appointments scheduled via phone or through the click of a button, and meetings available both in person and online, as telehealth enables students of color—who rarely have on-site counseling available from professionals of their racial or cultural background—to connect online with counselors who work better for them.

Beyond institutional support, law students need legislative support. This is why the article includes an accompanying Fact Sheet—to make clear through brief bullet points and visualizations what the challenges are and how policymakers can help. Legislators could immediately reduce food insecurity by permanently expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to law students—without requiring them to work 20 hours per week or prove they care for dependents. Both the EATS Act and the Student Food Security Act provide pathways for SNAP expansion and extension; they are currently pending before Congress and should be strongly supported. California recently passed legislation expanding CalFresh (the state SNAP program) to those enrolled in institutions of higher education at least half-time. Other states should follow suit. Similarly, legislation should ensure mental health care is covered in standard insurance policies that tend to focus on physical health. Legislation could also offer financial assistance to institutions providing integrated mental health counseling for free or low-cost to law students. Additional legislative support could offer rental assistance, loan forgiveness, emergency funds, and other resources to law students in need.


Together, administrators and legislators can work to combat barriers facing law students that have intensified as a result of COVID. Once their basic needs are met, students can turn to maximizing their academic and professional success. Part of student success involves effectively and enthusiastically engaging in the intangibles of legal education, drawing from their own experiences and backgrounds to share and learn from classmates and faculty. When students are overcome by anxiety, depression, and loneliness, it is impossible to perform at their best.

Developing a personal code of values and ethics in law school

The pursuit of justice and equality are lofty goals that draw many students to the legal profession. But to what degree do law students feel that their law school is helping them refine their code of ethics and make contributions to the welfare of their communities?

Most law students feel that law school has helped them shape their personal code of values and ethics. A full 85% of students say that their law school has at least some positive impact in this area, and more than half (55%) consider their law school to have quite a bit or very much influence on shaping their values and ethics.


A similar proportion of law students agree that law school has helped them achieve the skills, knowledge, and personal development necessary to contribute to the welfare of their communities. More than four in five (83%) of law students credit their law schools with having at least some influence in becoming a force for good in their communities, while only 17% said that their law school has had very little influence.


Students with different career goals may have different attitudes toward the development of their personal code of values and ethics. We might expect that students who are interested in public service careers would be more likely prioritize opportunities for learning and challenging themselves on difficult ethical and moral questions. Interestingly, however, law students who would prefer a career in the private sector are slightly more likely to credit law school with making a significant impact on their development of a personal code of ethics. Around 57% of students who plan to work for a private firm believe that their law school has “quite a bit” or “very much” impact on developing their personal ethical code compared to 52% of students who are interested in careers in the non-profit and government sectors.


The world benefits greatly from ethical lawyers who care about the welfare of their communities, and the vast majority of law students feel that their law schools are shaping them into exactly that type of legal professional.

Working Effectively with Others

Last month, we looked at characteristics and perspectives of law students who developed the ability to learn independently. This month, we will look at students who have substantially improved their ability to work effectively with others during law school.

Developing skills in working effectively with others may be at least partially about exposure. Students who learned a lot about working with others were more likely to frequently work with classmates during class and also more likely to frequently work with classmates outside of class.


Perhaps not surprisingly, sustained contact with others while working toward a mutual goal appears to be associated with increased awareness of issues of diversity. Students who learned a great deal about working with others were more likely to include diverse perspectives in course assignments and class discussions by considering issues of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or political beliefs more often than their peers. Three in five (60%) of students who learned a lot about working with others frequently had serious conversations with students of a different race or ethnicity than themselves, but only 48% of other students did so. However, the largest difference is in the degree to which students feel that law school contributed substantially to understanding people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Two-thirds (65%) of students who learned a lot about working with others felt this way compared to a meager 22% of students who did not learn a lot about working with others.

We must consider, however, that students who feel their law school contributed substantially to their ability to work effectively about others may feel more engaged and positive about their law school experience overall compared to their colleagues who did not experience very much personal development in this area. The students who learned how to work with others were also more likely to understand themselves quite a bit better because of their time at law school (73% vs. 35% of students who did not learn much about working with others) and to be more satisfied with their overall law school experience (89% vs. 65%). There is likely a constellation of environmental and personal factors that influence how students learn to engage with others and what value they get from these interactions. However, it seems likely that students who work with others, both during class and outside class, develop more collaboration skills and hone their ability to more deeply understand the perspectives of those who do not share their background.

Guest Post: Celebrating Asian-Americans: Reflections on Solidarity and Success in the Sunlight



Cyra Akila Choudhury
Professor of Law
FIU College of Law
Center for Law and Digital Technologies, Leiden University


Asian Americans have been in the news a great deal in the last several years. This year has been the year for Asians in the movies. Over the pandemic years, Asians and Asian Americans were in the news regularly for being victims of racial harassment and violence. That violence reached its extreme in the Atlanta massacre of six Korean American women working at a spa. The brief outpouring of support and solidarity after the shootings were welcome but not sustained. Within months, Asians went back to being a marginal minority group.

Even though we are the fastest growing minority, too often, we are only given attention in extraordinary moments: when we are the agents (Oscar winners, school shooters) or objects (victims of violence) of spectacular events. The most recent sustained attention given to Asian Americans has been in the context of the legal attacks on affirmative action.[1]

As Asians, we occupy the spotlight but not the sunlight, solidarity ebbs and flows, and our excellence is a double-edged sword. In this blog post, I reflect on the ways in which we have become agents for change in ways that overcome the binary glare of the spotlight or dark of its shadow. Asians have practiced and should continue to commit to radical solidarity both among ourselves and with other groups even as we unapologetically embrace our excellence. I offer these reflections as part of an ongoing conversation about what it means to be Asian American—an umbrella that includes a diverse group of people—in this moment.

  1. Seeking the sunlight not the spotlight

We are used to not being seen and not attracting attention to ourselves. Psychologist Jenny T. Wang writes in Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans,[2] that safety was one of the primary needs of her immigrant family. Safety meant following the plan of achieving stability and success without fuss. Often this means that we keep our heads down and get the job done, sacrificing what we truly love for the sake of duty. The light is shone on us by others when they perceive something worthy of notice.

In short, unless we are winning Oscars, running Google, or being massacred, people really don’t notice Asians. This is the spotlight effect. An external gaze that lights us up temporarily. As law students and lawyers, this might happen when we win an award or a big case. But what about when we’re not winning something? Asians deserve the sunlight and not the spotlight. That is to say, rather than being content with attention primarily when we achieve excellence, we deserve to be visible and present just as we are. Living in the sunlight also means being willing to be seen in our various workplaces and in society. Raising our hand in class, speaking in our own voice, running for public office, applying for promotion, and owning our histories and accomplishments.

  1. Practicing radical solidarity

Asia is a vast geography with ancient civilizations. “Asian” is not a race, a cultural group, nor a linguistic group. Asian Americans hailing from different parts of Asia are a diverse group with many sub-diasporas. In legal education, for instance, Asian Americans include those with ancestors from China, Korea, India, the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam. Increasingly, the shared experiences of these communities in the U.S. based on political marginalization, racism, immigration, and some cultural values have led to a growing sense of shared identity as well.

Yet, much more work needs to do be done to forge these nascent bonds. After the Atlanta massacre and the pandemic related violence against East Asian communities, there was a surge of broader recognition that Asian Americans were subjects of racism. This massacre was preceded by the massacre of six Sikhs in Wisconsin in 2012. This too was an Asian massacre and yet, we rarely connect the two as anti-Asian racism. Solidarity among Asians in an increasingly polarized political society has become very important if we want to shape and direct change.

Asians have been partners in all of America’s struggles: the civil rights movement, labor rights, anti-war protests, and resistance to the War on Terror. We have demonstrated our solidarity with other groups, and we must do the same within our Asian communities as well. Radical solidarity, as I define it, means showing up for the struggle when called. When Black communities call for resistance, we show up. When Latinx communities ask for solidarity, we show up. Same for feminists and LGBTQ communities. We cannot succeed meaningfully in isolation. These struggles overlap within our communities. Moreover, radical solidarity is something we do without taking stock. I recall an acquaintance remarking in response to the Atlanta massacre, “I’d like to support Asians Americans, but they call the cops,” This is the opposite of radical solidarity. It is contingent solidarity and as we all know, fair-weather friends are of limited value. No single group has succeeded without radical solidarity from other groups. Without the civil rights movement, many of us would not even be Americans.

For law students, radical solidarity means working with other groups, showing up for their events, collaborating with others. LSSSE data make clear that law students excel at this already, both having serious conversations with students of a different race and working to understand students from different racial backgrounds.



For law professors, it means mentoring across various communities, perhaps reading across histories and cultures, and comparative research. For lawyers, it means building professional bridges and perhaps doing pro bono work for the communities that need it. Radical solidarity might require humility but not apology. I’m sure that there are many in our communities with very different ideas and politics but I speak here to the majority of us who believe in social equality.

  1. Embracing excellence and failure

Asians Americans are known as the “model minority.” It’s a pernicious myth about exceptionalism that is used to chastise other minority groups. In the last few years, weaponizing Asian excellence to harm other minority groups has been difficult for most Asians because we support affirmative action. How do we celebrate the very excellence that has been used to falsely exceptionalize us? Others have written extensively about the harms of this myth not only to others but to Asians themselves. Here I want to reflect on another consequence: a reluctance to embrace our successes and excellence as a community because it reinforces the myth.

The model minority myth has led to an ambivalence in celebrating our communities’ successes—an obstacle that few other groups have had to overcome. Achieving success because of hard work should be celebrated for itself while understanding that it says nothing about the value and success of any other group. Our radical solidarity with marginalized groups prevents us from claiming any exceptionalism for ourselves. And celebrating Asian Americans who succeed should not be mistaken for it. Nor should it be denigrated as mere borrowing, assimilationism, or white adjacency which is another kind of negative exceptionalism. Other groups’ similar successes are rarely spoken of in these denigrating ways.

So, celebrate the Indian kids who win spelling bees, the Chinese kid who wins the math competition while rejecting that Asians are somehow exceptional at spelling or math! Our stars are just that: stars. We have exceptional talents who deserve to be celebrated.

I want to end on a positive note on what is commonly thought to be a negative experience: failure. One stereotype about Asians is that, in our families and communities, failure is not an option. However, we should embrace failure as part of success rather than as a shameful shortcoming. As a law professor, I tell my students that they should learn from their failures, admit to them, overcome them, and move forward. Failures are inevitable and learning to cope with them without shame is important to the mental health of the community.[3] Asians fail as much as any other group and to deny this is to enforce an unacceptably high standard. To fully lay the model minority myth at rest, we must accept both our success and our failure. Asian belonging is not contingent on group accomplishment or excellence. We deserve the sunlight, to be visible, and fully accepted as Americans when we’re winning as well as when we’re not.


[1] Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard; Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina

[2] Jenny T. Wang, Ph.D., Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans (2023).

[3] See id.

Learning Effectively on Your Own

Working independently and working collaboratively are both important skills for budding legal professionals. In addition to learning through classroom experiences, law students must assume responsibility for learning large amounts of material in a relatively short period of time, often independently and sometimes in small groups. We examined the extent to which law students feel that their experiences in law school have contributed to their personal development in both learning effectively on their own and working effectively with others.

Four in five law students say that law school helped them “quite a bit” or “very much” in developing the ability to learn effectively on their own. Fifteen percent say that they developed “some” skills in this area, and only four percent said they developed “very little.” By comparison, only about half (52%) of law students learned “quite a bit” or “very much” about working effectively with others. A little more than a third (36%) developed “some” skills in this area, and more than one in ten (12%) learned very little about working effectively with others.

Students who greatly enhanced their ability to work on their own generally feel both that their law school has high standards and that their law school adequately supports their academic endeavors. Nearly all (92%) of students who significantly enhanced their independent learning skills felt that their law school emphasizes spending significant amounts of time studying and on academic work compared to 84% of their colleagues who developed fewer skills in this area. Additionally, over two-thirds (69%) of students who honed their ability to learn independently felt that their law school provides the support they need to succeed academically compared to only 38% of their peers. Rigor and institutional support work together to drive student achievement.

Students who substantially enhanced their ability to learn independently were more likely to revise course assignments at least once and to engage more deeply with course content. Sixty-three percent of independent learners frequently prepared two or more drafts of a paper or assignment and 84% were frequently required to integrate ideas from multiple sources in papers or course assignments. Students who developed independent learning skills were more likely to frequently discuss assignments with faculty compared to students who developed less of an ability to learn independently. Perhaps crucially, the independent learners were more likely to frequently receive prompt feedback from faculty (50% received prompt feedback "often" or "very often") compared to law students with less-developed independent learning skills (29% received prompt feedback "often" or "very often"). Deep, sustained learning is often an iterative process that requires feedback from experts, and this is borne out by the LSSSE data.


Next month we will look at how students who feel law school has contributed substantially to their ability to work effectively with others differ from those students who do not feel this way. We will also consider how interpersonal effectiveness skills might affect attitudes toward diversity.

Law School Support for Non-Academic Responsibilities

Law students vary in their amount and type of non-academic responsibilities, and they also vary in the degree to which they feel that their law school helps them cope with these responsibilities. In addition to their studies, some law students work, care for children or other dependents, and engage in community activities. We wanted to examine the degree to which students feel supported in these endeavors by their law schools.

Time Spent Caring for Dependents

Thirty-eight percent of law students spend at least one hour per week caring for dependents living with them (parents, children, spouse, etc.). Interestingly, there is little difference in the percentage of students with and without dependent care duties who feel that their law school emphasizes helping them cope with their non-academic responsibilities. About a quarter of each group (26% of students with dependents and 24% of students without dependents) feel well-supported. However, students with dependents are slightly more likely to say that their law school does very little to help them cope with non-academic responsibilities. Two out of five (42%) of students with dependents feel this way compared to 38% of students without dependents.

Gender and Dependent Care

However, there are huge differences by gender. Men with dependent care responsibilities are much more likely to feel supported by their law schools than women with dependent care responsibilities, and both groups feel more supported than people of other gender identities with dependent care responsibilities.


It appears, however, that this effect is more about gender and less about the dependent care responsibilities as we see this same disparity across gender among people without dependent care responsibilities.

Time Spent Working for Pay

Similar to the pattern we see with dependent care duties, there is minimal difference in the perceived level of support for non-academic responsibilities between students who have jobs and students who do not. Around one in four students in either category say that their law school emphasizes supporting their non-academic responsibilities.

Gender and Employment

The gender pattern for perceived support is much the same for working/non-working students as it is for dependent care duties. Men are more likely to feel high levels of support than other students. However, people who identify as neither men nor women are actually more likely to feel highly supported in their non-academic responsibilities when they are employed (20% of students) relative to when they are not (6% of students).

Regardless of how they spend their time outside of law school, men are much more likely to feel highly supported in their non-academic responsibilities, people of another gender identity are very unlikely to feel supported, and women generally fall somewhere in between. Adequate support for non-academic responsibilities clearly looks different for different people, and it appears that gender is a major factor. Rather than focusing on student populations based on which responsibilities they have and how they spend their time outside of the classroom, law schools may want to consider the unique needs of women and people of other gender identities to close the gap in the degree of support they feel about coping with their non-academic responsibilities.

Guest Post: Suits for Success



Colin Miller
Professor of Law
University of South Carolina School of Law


In 2018, I saw a tweet thread by attorney Alyssa Leader offering advice to law students on purchasing professional clothes on a budget. The thread was inspired by Leader’s memories of being a 1L and trying to swing a new wardrobe on student loans for job interviews. It led to me recalling my own time as a 1L, when all I had were ill-fitting Dockers and dress shirts, samples from my dad’s job as a Levi’s salesman. Knowing that many of my students faced similar issues, I researched whether any programs existed where job applicants could borrow professional clothes.

I came across the “tiebrary” program at the Paschalville Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. In a neighborhood with high rates of poverty, unemployment, and citizens returning from incarceration, the program allows patrons to check out professional clothes for job interviews. Further research revealed that this program was inspired by a similar one at the Queens Public Library, started when a library assistant gathered unused, clear VHS cases to display ties that patrons could check out. Articles on both of these programs sung their praises, with patrons crediting some of their success in the job market to their ability to dress for success.

Having fallen down the rabbit hole, I read studies suggesting that wearing professional clothes not only increases confidence and the chances of being hired, but also thinking and negotiating skills. Given how critical such skills are to success in summer jobs, I thought that a similar program for the students at our law school shouldn’t involve rentals; it should allow them to keep those clothes and wear them while they worked, not merely while they tried to be hired.

And thus, Suits for Success was born. First, we needed a space to house the program. Luckily, my Associate Dean counterpart, Susan Kuo, had started a free pantry for food insecure students. The space was big enough to house not only non-perishable food, but also a few clothing racks, allowing for one-stop shopping. After I took a trip to IKEA, we had all of the infrastructure we needed for the program.

Now, we simply needed to stock the space with suits, skirts, slacks, and other accessories for our clothing insecure students. Therefore, with assistance by my research assistant A.C. Parham, we conducted a month-long clothing drove where students could donate new and gently used professional clothes. We placed receptacles around the school where our students could drop off clothes that could help their classmates land the jobs of their dreams. Many of our students were thrilled at the opportunity to help their fellow students, building a sense of camaraderie around the law school.

But it went further than that. We promoted Suits for Success on social media, and it led to local lawyers seeing and understanding the need for the program. Soon, we started getting donations from members of the bar, who now better understood the financial issues facing our students and how they are orders of magnitude larger than the ones they faced when they were in school.

These are some of the same issues identified in the LSSSE data, concerns about making ends meet that disproportionately impact women and students of color. For instance, LSSSE data show that first-gen students (those who are the first in their families to attend college and therefore less likely to have professional clothes as hand-me-downs) also have the highest debt levels—leaving little extra money to spend on a new wardrobe. Financial concerns are also a huge source of stress for first-gen students, and many others. Being able to alleviate this in even a small way through Suits for Success is a simple way to support our students.

There are, of course, systemic issues that our food pantry and Suits for Success cannot and do not address. But we hope that these programs can at least make the difference at the margins and offer our students some security that they otherwise wouldn’t have.