Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
If You Think Law Schools Teach Students to "Think Like a Lawyer"...Think Again!
ExpressO (2010)
  • Douglas Rush
Abstract

Law school faculty and deans purport to teach law students to “think like a lawyer.” Indeed, this phrase has been repeated so often that it has become legal pedagogical dogma. Professor Wegner, co-author of the Carnegie Report Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, has stated that “thinking like a lawyer” has been embraced as a ”trope of the core identity” of the legal academy. Unfortunately, whether law schools truly teach their students to “think like a lawyer” has not been previously subjected to empirical analysis.

This article is an empirical examination using logistic regression analysis of two different law school’s graduates to test whether law students improve their “think like a lawyer” skills while in law school. The findings demonstrate that students who graduate in the first, second and fourth quartile and students who graduate in the bottom ten percent of their law school classes (as measured by final law school grade point averages) do not improve their “think like a lawyer” skills while in law school. Students who graduate in the third quartile of their law school class do demonstrate a small increase in “think like a lawyer skills” while in law school but such skills explain less than 2% of the variation in third quartile law student success on state bar examinations.

The author of the paper suggests that prospective law students with pre-existing “think like a lawyer” skills self-select themselves for law school attendance. Similarly, law schools use LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages to purposefully select students who have already developed the “think like a lawyer” skills necessary for law school success. Law schools cannot demonstrate that most law students actually develop “think like a lawyer” skills after admission.

Keywords
  • legal education,
  • empirical study,
  • bar examination,
  • law school admission,
  • law school pedagogy
Disciplines
Publication Date
November 10, 2010
Citation Information
Douglas Rush. "If You Think Law Schools Teach Students to "Think Like a Lawyer"...Think Again!" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/douglas_rush/1/