Bill Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University School of Law and one of the most influential legal bloggers writing today, has posted a thorough exploration of Washington and Lee University’s third-year curriculum on his site, The Legal Whiteboard.
The essay, titled “Washington & Lee is Biggest Legal Education Story of 2013,” includes an extensive analysis of W&L’s Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) data and concludes that “there is empirical evidence that [W&L] is delivering a significantly better education to 3L students—significantly better than prior graduating classes at W&L, and significantly better than W&L’s primary competitors.”
The LSSSE survey includes 100 questions on a variety of topics related to student classroom experience, faculty interaction, type and quantity of assessments, time allocation, and perceived gains on dimensions related to personal and professional development. W&L’s results on the 2012 survey show major increases across all dimensions when compared with surveys from 2004 and 2008.
Henderson first saw the LSSSE data during a presentation by Jim Moliterno, Vincent Bradford Professor of Law at W&L and one of the third-year program’s chief architects, at a meeting of the 2012 Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers conference at the University of Denver.
“When I presented this data at Denver, people in the room literally gasped,” says Moliterno. “The fact that we now have empirical data that support what we have been saying about the third-year program is incredibly important, and I believe it will encourage other schools to emulate what we have done at W&L.”
Henderson, a tough critic of legal education and outspoken advocate of legal education reform across the curriculum, notes in his post that despite W&L’s gains, there remains room for improvement. Nevertheless, he writes that “W&L is tooling around in a Model-T while the rest of us rely on horse and buggy.”
W&L Law Dean Nora Demleitner views this report as verification that W&L graduates can be meaningful contributors once they graduate and begin to practice.
“Our LSSSE data demonstrate that the much-maligned 3L year can be not only a valuable bridge to the profession but also engage and inspire students and help them grow professionally,” says Demleitner.
View the entire post on The Legal Whiteboard.