Report offers insight on law students' thoughts on school

January 6, 2011
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An annual report released Wednesday by Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research on law school student engagement shows many students don’t feel prepared to practice law.

The Law School Survey of Student Engagement asks students at participating law schools about their experiences. Only two Indiana law schools have participated in the survey: Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Valparaiso University School of Law. Since 2004, 164 different law schools have participated. This year, nearly 77,000 law students from 77 law schools responded.

The data is helpful to law schools to figure out what they are doing right and what they need to improve as far as preparing students to become attorneys. It’s pretty interesting to see what future attorneys have to say about their education. The report breaks down what is going well (i.e., only 7 percent of 1L students reported coming to class unprepared), what could use attention (female students were less likely than male students to ask questions in class frequently), and what warrants further investigation (more than half of 3Ls who used career-counseling services at their law schools were unsatisfied with job search help).
The report notes that law schools are excellent in preparing law students academically, but aren’t as effective in transforming law students into lawyers. Only about half of 1L, 2L, and 3L students said they felt prepared to understand the needs of clients. Less than 60 percent reported they felt prepared to work with colleagues as part of a legal team, deal with the stresses of practicing law, or deal with ethical dilemmas.

Something else that stuck out to me: Younger students reported they were more likely than their older classmates to go to law school because they weren’t sure what their next step in life should be. These students who were unsure of what to do with their life also reported studying much less than other students.

The older students were more likely to say they went to law school to contribute to the public good. Younger students also were more likely to say they entered law school to work toward financial security, live up to career expectations others set for them, or to achieve prestige in their professional lives.

There is a lot of interesting data in the report, which is available on the LSSSE’s website.

What do you think about the results? Have things changed since you went to law school?

  • Not Surprising
    I am not surprised at all about the above findings. My experiance with law clerks is they tend to be immature, have no basic business knowledge, and have unreal expectations about what being a practicing attorney entails. They are all very smart though. Many law students are befuddled that there are far more law students than lawyer positions. My suggestions has always been the IBA or the ABA needs to limit (or assign) the number of seats a law school may have for incoming students. The AMA does this and exiting med students have no problem finding employment. Also, three years after law school should be an a "residency." After your residency (compensated), the young attorney should have to have five attorneys sign off they are competant (morally, ethically, subject matter so on). I laugh ever time I hear a law student say "I don't want to practice, I just want the background of law school for my career." I think to myself thats a waste of energy and time. A business who needs an attorney...well, hires an attorney. I have never heard a business person say "I need an inexperianced, non-practicing attorney for a non-legal related job." Ok, this was just a rant. Excuse they typos. Have a nice weekend all.
    • Mr. Boots Is Right
      I concur with Mr. Boots. The number of law school slots need to be limited like in medical school. There is so much unemployment and depressed salaries in the law's all due to a saturation of attorneys, far more people are lawyers than there is work to do.

      The law school model needs to be blown up. It's crazy that people spend three years in law school and aren't taught squat about actually practicing law while there. Can you imagine medical schools taking an academic approach to their profession instead of a practical one?

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