Law Schools Struggle to Prepare Students Professionally

Published: Jan 12, 2011

Topics: Education       Grad School       

Chances are, law students who interact with faculty will be better prepared for professional life, says a new survey on student engagement. The problem is that the professors aren't availing themselves to students as much as they should be.

From the 2010 Law School Survey of Student Engagement:

"Law schools are reaching only about half of their students in preparing them to make the transition from students to lawyers. Valuable opportunities for the law school to emphasize key aspects of professional preparation are not being used to full effect."

The study says that only a third of 3Ls said they worked with faculty on a research project. A mere 20 percent said they frequently discussed career plans with professors. A lackluster effort from the law schools, given the poor job market. Those who did talk to faculty, though, no matter the topic of conversation—course concepts, career aspirations or research—they felt much more prepared to tackle professional tasks and deal with ethical dilemmas.

Knowing the strong link between faculty accessibility and the real-world preparedness of the students, then, schools need to acknowledge missed opportunities, the study implies. Administrators should make policies that create more opportunities for faculty to interact with students whose concerns are, these days, more focused on employment. It may not be what many of the academically minded professors want, but it's not enough that law schools just teach students to think like lawyers, they must prepare them professionally as much as they do intellectually.

If faculty accessibility is an important quality, check out Tax Prof Blog's list of law schools with most and least accessible faculty.

[Student Engagement in Law School:In Class and Beyond (PDF)]


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