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Assessing Differently and Using Empirical Studies to See If it Makes a Difference: Can Law Schools Do it Better?

36 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 13 Dec 2012

Andrea Anne Curcio

Georgia State University - College of Law

Date Written: 2009


Recent scholarly literature criticizes law school assessment methods as being pedagogically unsound, an ineffective way to develop good lawyers, and as standing as an unjustifiable barrier to diversifying the profession. With the publication of Educating Lawyers, and Best Practices, the academy finally has begun to engage in the kind of scholarly scrutiny of assessment that has long been the practice in other disciplines. This essay seeks to move the discussion from a focus on law school assessment shortcomings, to a discussion of the scholarly work necessary to examine and improve assessments. It does this by providing concrete suggestions for alternative law school assessments which attempt to incorporate into large-section courses the Carnegie apprenticeships of legal analysis, practical skills, and professional identity. The essay acknowledges that whether these alternatives, or even our existing assessment methods, are valid and reliable is an undetermined question. Thus, the essay urges empirical exploration of law school assessments. It provides guidance to those seeking to design empirical assessment research studies and it suggests some empirical assessment studies that can and should be done. It concludes by arguing that given the high stakes of law school assessments, law professors should devote the same level of scrutiny to assessments as is given to other scholarly pursuits.

Keywords: legal education, law school, empirical research, assessment, Carnegie Report

JEL Classification: I20, I29, K00

Suggested Citation

Curcio, Andrea Anne, Assessing Differently and Using Empirical Studies to See If it Makes a Difference: Can Law Schools Do it Better? (2009). Quinnipiac Law Review, Vol. 27, 2009; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-22. Available at SSRN:

Andrea Anne Curcio (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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