Assessing a Law School's Program of Legal Education to Comply with the American Bar Association's Revised Standards and Maximize Student Attainment of Core Lawyering Competencies
33 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 3, 2016
The American Bar Association is now requiring all law schools to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of their programs of legal education. This includes, but is not limited to, a mandate that: (1) law schools adopt and publish learning outcomes (ABA Revised Standard 302); (2) utilize formative and summative assessments throughout the curriculum, coupled with individualized feedback (ABA Revised Standard 314); and (3) comprehensively assess the effectiveness of the curriculum in producing graduates with competency-based skills, which includes a requirement that law schools measure, or quantify, the extent to which students are attaining a law school’s published learning outcomes (Standard 315). In short, law schools can no longer rely on an end-of-the semester examination to assess student learning, or simply cite high bar pass rates as evidence of a program’s effectiveness. Low bar pass rates, however, or a curriculum that fails to rigorously prepare students for the practice of law, will likely — and rightfully — result in remedial action. These developments demonstrate that the ABA is beginning to hold law schools accountable for questionable admissions practices, and for legal training that, in the eyes of many, fails to prepare students for law practice. To put it mildly, this development is long overdue.
Of course, as the old paradigm of legal education is replaced with an accountability-based framework, many questions — and likely confusion — will invariably arise. What procedures are law schools expected to adopt when assessing their program of legal education? What types of formative and summative assessments will be effective in maximizing students’ achievement of core lawyering competencies? What is the best manner in which to evaluate the utility of a law school’s formative and summative assessments? How does one accurately measure, or quantify, student learning? This article answers these questions by setting forth a detailed roadmap that will enable law schools to effectively — and efficiently — monitor their program of legal education, enhance student learning, and provide students with training that bridges the divide between law school and the legal profession. In so doing, it provides a blueprint for laws schools that will ensure compliance with the ABA’s Revised Standards, and that will enable law schools to maximize institutional effectiveness.
Keywords: legal education, formative and summative assessments, learning outcomes
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation