Why Life Experience Between College and Law School Matters

From the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System:

For years, there is one piece of advice I give prospective law students that hasn’t changed: take time off before you go to law school. Work, travel, volunteer. Do something that isn’t school. Experience the world, whatever that means to you.

So it didn’t surprise me when lawyers responding to our Foundations for Practice survey indicated that “life experience between college and law school” was helpful in identifying that a new lawyer has the foundations (characteristics, professional competencies, and legal skills) that they believe are important. Almost 30 percent said “life experience between college and law school” was “very helpful”; another 49 percent said it was “helpful.”

Yet, we know that far too many law students do not take time between college and law school. I didn’t—and I wish I had. We even refer to students who take just a couple years off as “non-traditional.”

This could change, if Harvard Law School has anything to say about it. In a move to entice students to gain work experience before they enter law school, HLS announced it is expanding a pilot program for Harvard juniors to juniors from any college. The program lets law school applicants defer admission to the law school for two years, which “allows students to go and do something they love, and not to feel they have to build their résumé,” Jessica L. Soban, HLS’s Associate Dean for Admissions and Strategic Initiatives, told the New York Times.

While it’s great that Harvard wants its students to have the opportunity to do something they love, Harvard is getting a lot out of this deal as well. The same survey respondents who valued “life experience between college and law school” told us that the foundations they most needed in new lawyers were, predominantly, characteristics and professional competencies. They were things like conscientiousness, common sense, maturity, working collaboratively in a team, and exhibiting tact and diplomacy (see the full list here). They were things that may be best developed through experiences like those that prospective Harvard Law Students will now seek out before starting law school.

By encouraging applicants to engage in activities that will help them develop these key characteristics and competencies before they ever even come to law school, Harvard is ensuring that its graduates have yet another leg up. Well played, Harvard. Well played.

Read full article at iaals.du.edu

What Do Students Do in Clinics?

From Law School Cafe:

Douglas Kahn has posted an article criticizing the “proliferation of clinical and other experiential courses” in legal education. These courses, he argues, reduce the number of “doctrinal” courses that students take, leaving them “ill-prepared to practice law as soon after graduation as law firms would like.” The TaxProf Blog posted a summary of the article, and a baker’s dozen of readers have offered pro and con comments.

It’s an old debate, one that has bristled for more than 50 years. The discussion doesn’t surprise me, but Professor Kahn’s ignorance of clinical education does. His bold assertions about clinics reveal little familiarity with the actual operation of those courses. Let’s examine some of Kahn’s claims.

“[S]kills in legal reasoning, analysis, and statutory construction are best learned in doctrinal courses . . . .”

Seminar sessions in a clinic “likely are more focused on the delivery of legal services than on the analysis of legal issues and policies.”

“Much of th[e] time [in clinical courses] can be spent in ways that have little or no educational value (such as sitting in court waiting for a case to be called).”

“Another reason [to prefer simulation courses] is that the instructor in a simulation course can control the issues that will arise rather than . . . depend on what issues a client brings.”

One can, as Professor Kahn suggests, debate the appropriate balance among doctrinal, experiential, and (I would add) interdisciplinary, perspective, and seminar courses in law school. But to have an intelligent debate, we need to know the content of those course types. Professor Kahn’s article reflects many of the stereotypes that educators hold about clinical and other experiential courses. Let’s learn the facts before we begin to negotiate: that’s a key lesson we teach in clinics.

Top 5 Reasons Why People Really Fail The Bar Exam

From bar Exam Toolbox:

Top 5 Reasons Why People Really Fail The Bar Exam

It’s probably every law student’s worst fear: failing the bar exam. You’ve invested time and money in seven years of higher education, three of them specifically aimed at one particular profession…so what will you do if you can’t get admitted to that profession? What will you do when everyone finds out? Will your career be over before it starts? Are you too lazy or not intelligent enough to be a lawyer?

The fact is that not everyone passes the first time. In some states less than a third of people taking the exam pass.

If you fail the bar exam, there are two important things you need to know: First, you’re not stupid and your life is not over. Second, it’s critical to figure out why you failed so you can pass the next time.

It’s a common mistake to assume that if you failed the bar, you didn’t study enough and you simply need to redouble your efforts. But if you repeat the same preparation as last time, just with more hours, you’re probably going to keep making the same mistakes.

It doesn’t matter if you were at the top of your class in law school or have always done well on exams. Many smart, hardworking people still fail the bar exam. The good news is, if you figure out what went wrong, you can address whatever stood in the way of passing. So, why do people really fail the bar exam?

  • 1. You Did Not Practice Enough
  • 2. You Did Not Course Correct
  • 3. You Did Not Know The Law
  • 4. You Didn’t Practice Time Management
  • 5. You Have Anxiety

How Lawyers Use Evernote

From Rocket Matters Legal Productivity website:

Evernote is more than a note-taking application. We use it to store ideas, recordings, projects, tasks, images…The list is as comprehensive as we want it to be. Evernote allows us to offload our brain and organize our lives.

And how do lawyers use Evernote? I asked a few Evernote-loving lawyers. Here are their stories.

See also: A Lawyer’s Guide to Evernote E-Book

Law School Prep: How to Prepare for Law School as a 0L

Preparing for law school before classes begin is important in being successful. However, your preparation should be focused on getting into law school and enjoying your “freedom” before you spend countless hours studying the law.

Here are five things to think about from Law School Toolbox:

  1. Do Not Study the Law Intensely
  2. Research Schools
  3. Relax a Little
  4. Work, Work And Work
  5. Get in the Mindset

Are Law Schools with Low Bar Pass Rates at Risk of Closing?

From Bloomberg Law:

The University of La Verne College of Law enrolls over 100 students each year, and if past history is any indication, only slightly more than half, 54 percent, will likely pass the bar on their first try after graduation.

Should that affect whether it stays open?

The disconnect between a school’s low bar passage rate, relative to other schools in the country, and its ability to draw applicants raises a question that’s been looming for legal education regulators: Is the bar passage rate the best way to measure whether a law school is adequately preparing its students to become lawyers?

On one side, there are voices urging the ABA to raise the standard of graduates who must pass the bar exam on their first attempt. They say the high cost of a legal education means schools owe it to their students to guarantee a certain level of success and chance of a career in the law.

Others argue the ABA’s standards would limit diversity in the legal profession by disproportionately forcing the closure of law schools that serve historically underrepresented populations. They claim a focus on bar passage rates does not adequately capture their success or account for the role they play in their communities.

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