Expanding the Role of the Student in Law School Reform

27 de agosto de 2017

In a recent post on Legal Skills Prof Blog, Professor Scott Fruehwald offered a number of ways that law students could improve their law school experience.  His post has some excellent links, especially if you’re a law school reform effort geek/junky (definitely check out #1 and especially The Carnegie Report).  You ought to be able to find the report at your school’s library, and if you do a Lexis/Westlaw search with “Law School Reform,” you’ll come up with a lot of super neat articles referencing the report.

The following lays out a few steps to consider as we continue to be Law Schooled:

Step 1 – LEARN THE RULES OF THE GAME AND KEEP READING LAW SCHOOLED AS WE LEARN TO NAVIGATE THIS SYSTEM WITH YOU

Since you have loads of spare time as a law student and may be searching for some light beach reading, 240 pages of The Carnegie Report doesn’t sound all that bad.  (Don’t worry, you can find summaries about it online).  But really now, go ask your favorite professor, career services office, or Dean questions like:  How do decisions about tuition get made?  Where does our tuition go?  What are your limitations in getting X done?  And, then follow up with a, what can I do to help?  Thanks!

Step 2 – ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR LIMITATIONS, REALIZE THAT THE BATTLE HAS JUST BEGUN, AND KNOW THAT IT CAN BE WON (rhyming is fun)

There are many limitations, which I think have kept students, like myself, from really caring about taking part in the law school reform effort.  I lacked the time.  I was caught up in a variety of scholastic and extracurricular endeavors.  Life happened.  Etc.

However, and I hope you catch the bug too, having a voice is fun!  Not only is it fun, it feels really, really good to be working towards something that could change my life, my friend’s life, my future client’s life, and potentially the entire legal community.  If we can make law schools more accessible (tuition/admissions), more attractive (skills/feedback), and more progressive (critical/political), maybe, just maybe, we’ll get that bounce back in our step, and we’ll be a part of a community of students who work together and no longer isolate themselves in libraries counting down the hours until and sometimes living their lives for Thursday night hydration therapy sessions.

GRAB THE OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE NOW

As for what you can do as a student now (and mostly for those of you returning next year), please don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

1.  Take an active role in your student organizations, and if you have the opportunity to be directly involved in these organizations, ask for the things you want:

  • If you have a Student Faculty Selection Committee which doesn’t allow you to review a prospective teacher’s mock lecture, ask to have this ability, and ask if more students can become involved in the evaluation.  Perhaps, include your IT department so that the survey can be done online.  No only does this give students a voice in evaluating a teacher’s performance before they are hired, but it also gives the faculty a good sense of a prospective hire’s ability to handle the pressure of a classroom filled with nifty law students (and possibly some gunners – oh, what fun for the interviewee!)
  • If your school has a Curriculum Review Board, ask if students can participate.  Ask if students can attend meetings.  Ask if they will allow students to present proposals.  Ask them to start taking student surveys to rate the things students wish to see at their schools in order to fill out the vision of what your law school could be someday.  After the change has been implemented, ask them to do another survey to see if students benefited and what could be improved. Always ask them what you can do to help reach student-centric goals.

2.  If you have the luck of winning the lottery ($640 mil?!  Did you really?!  Quit School!) – no, not that lottery – but the clinic/externship lottery, don’t waste the opportunity!  If you have time to do pro bono, do it!  If you don’t have time, make time!

3.  If your professor offers office hours, show up.  If your professor offers to let you go over the exam answers, do it.  If you have an idea that you think would help students deal with stress at school (puppy therapy you say?!), propose it.

Why take these extra steps?  Well, to go where no man has gone before of course!

That, and in each of these small ways, you may learn skills training, go beyond your role as the deferential and overtired student who doesn’t take the time to work towards systemic law school reform, and you might just encourage faculty to do a few things that outright benefit you.

Prime example – office hours.  I asked a professor once why there was so little feedback for students.  She gave me a multi-page spreadsheet showing points and explanations, and she said she had offered students the ability to take these sheets, come to her office hours, and discuss.  She asked me, guess how many students showed up?  I said something like 80%?  No way.  She said 10-15%.  I was floored, but I thought about what I would have done, and it probably would have been to move on to my next semester’s courses, ignoring her offer, while inwardly getting annoyed in a general sense that we just don’t get enough feedback from our professors.

This is not to say that the feedback system is awesome right now (or that all professors provide such generous amounts of time towards giving student feedback as this one), but I do urge you to take what you can get when you can get it.

Don’t worry.  We’ll keep working towards better feedback systems for the future.

EXPANDING THE STUDENT ROLE

We students have a role to play in all of this.  In fact, we have had a role, and the expectations and confines of that role must change both at our schools and in our own minds.  We need to step up, take responsibility, and push beyond what is expected of us.  Yes, the system can change.  Yes, it could be much better.  And, to reach our goals, we, as students, need to make an effort now in order to shape a better future.

USING LAW SCHOOLED AS A TOOL TO ORGANIZE

As for this Law Schooled effort, it is up to us to come together, contribute our thoughts, and organize to take action.

To do this, we need to be more involved and actively participate.  We need to make our respective faculty members and online faculty forums aware of our presence.

As our movement continues to grow, and yes, we are growing, I urge you to use Facebook as a way to organize online conferences, real life conferences, and open forums on law school reform issues.  Invite your faculty and deans and let the two-way stream of communication begin.

IMMEDIATE ACTION STEPS

Reach out to your friends by email and urge them to read and contribute to Law Schooled.  Contribute topic ideas, offer comments about this effort, tell us where you would like to see it go, and write up full articles.

Want to be a part of the behind-the-scenes action?  Email lawschooledreform@gmail.com and find out what you can do to further this movement.

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE OF THE DAY (Note:  This headings’s misleading because there won’t be daily inspirational quotes.  For that, go to the local self-help book section of your Borders bookstore – because those are still around and awesome!)

On Law Schooled:  “This is long overdue and much-needed. Let the law school revolution begin!”

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