An Empirical Study on the Research & Critical Evaluation Skills of Law Students
Michelle M. Wu
Georgetown University Law Center
Leslie A. Lee
George Washington University - Law School
June 8, 2012
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-067
Although other researchers have delved into various aspects of legal education, the fundamental analysis of research behavior and the quality of research skills remains somewhat uncharted territory. There have been assessments of the research skills of incoming law students and the effectiveness of various research programs, but little to assess skills and preferences of existing law students. Building on surveys and studies from other disciplines, this article describes an effort to gather empirical data on law students’ legal research practices.
Thirty eight ABA-accredited schools were included in this study, with a total of 3,599 student responses. The sample was diverse, representing law schools with organizational characteristics ranging in size, rank, public or private standing, age, and geography. Both part-time and full-time JD students were included, as were post-JD students.
Part I of this article describes the purpose of the study. Part II describes preliminary considerations relating to the structure, design, and format of the survey, with details on key decisions made during the survey construction process and the useful information such decisions helped to yield. Part III provides a summary of the survey data and our findings. Part IV highlights potential blind spots in the survey and suggests where additional research might be useful, and finally, Part V provides insight into lessons learned through the survey process itself.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 79
Keywords: law student research skills, law student critical evaluation skills, law schools, academic law libraries
JEL Classification: K00, K39
Date posted: June 8, 2012