Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Discouraging News About Legal Writing

The 2008 results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) were released today, according to an article in today's Inside Higher Ed. According to the article, "Law schools have to be responsive to the ever-changing legal world to keep their curriculums relevant and meaningful, but the latest findings of a national survey suggest that they should also be focusing more on the basics." The survey results are disheartening when it comes to legal writing. Close to half of the law students surveyed said that "their education does not 'contribute substantially' to their ability to 'apply legal writing skills' in the real world." George D. Kuh, who is Director of LSSSE and Professor at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, feels that legal writing is not given the attention it deserves in the law school curriculum. "'Despite near universal agreement on the value of these skills and competencies, legal writing, for example, is typically featured primarily in the first year, and viewed by students as a sidebar in their doctrinal classes ... The low value placed on writing is symbolized by the facts that relatively few legal writing faculty are tenured or in a tenure-eligible role and are often paid less than other faculty members.'" Students particularly feel the lack of opportunities to do practice-based legal writing. The survey contains a number of other insights about legal education that are well worth considering.

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