If You Think Law Schools Teach Students to ‘Think Like a Lawyer’...Think Again!
Douglas K. Rush
Saint Louis University - College of Education and Public Service
June 30, 2010
Law school faculty and deans have been claiming for over 100 years that law schools teach students to “think like lawyers.” The Socratic method of instruction using case law text books have been the accepted law school pedagogy in the core bar examination subject matter courses to teach students the “think like a lawyer” skills. However, there has been little or no empirical evidence to test whether attending law school improves students’ ability to “think like a lawyer.” This paper reports two studies conducted at ABA accredited law schools which examined whether taking more of the “think like a lawyer” bar courses improved students’ ability to pass state bar examinations.
The findings of both studies indicate that taking more of the “think like a lawyer” bar courses do not improve the bar passage rate for first, second or fourth quartile law students or for students who ranked in the bottom ten percent of their law school class after controlling for incoming Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and undergraduate grade point averages (UGPA). Taking more bar course resulted in a small improvement in bar examination passage for third quartile graduates but the effect was small (ή² = .014).
The author concludes that law schools do not teach students to “think like a lawyer.” Instead, students with pre-existing “think like a lawyer” skills self-select to attend law schools. Law schools also pre-select law students with high “think like a lawyer” skills using index scores which combine LSAT scores and UGPA.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41working papers series
Date posted: July 1, 2010
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