Law students benefit by connections with professors, fellow students
The National Law Journal
Want to do well in law school? Try some extra face time with professors and fellow students.
A large-scale survey of law students found that those who interacted more with faculty members and classmates experienced benefits including keener critical and analytical thinking, writing and research skills, and ethical development.
That was one finding of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, an annual study of law student satisfaction conducted by Indiana University's Center for Postsecondary Research, which surveyed more than 25,000 students at 81 schools.
The researchers found that students benefited from a variety of faculty interactions, including in-class discussions and timely feedback on their work. "Our analysis reveals that interaction with faculty relates significantly to students' perceptions of their own gains in both academic and personal dimensions," the authors wrote.
Not only did these interactions help students develop key legal skills; they also helped them earn better grades. Students who reported more interaction with their professors tended to be more satisfied with their law school experience.
Similarly, the survey found a link between peer interaction and the development of writing, speaking and other skills. Such interactions included participation in student organizations, social events and study groups. A full 86 percent of the surveyed 1Ls said they participated in a study group, and these students reported higher levels of satisfaction with law school overall. However, study-group participation did not correlate to higher grades.
"I was interested to see that students who participate in study groups are more likely to evaluate their law school experiences positively and to say that they would have chosen the same law school. The message is that I, and my law school, should do even more to encourage this," Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote in the survey's introduction. He was one of a number of legal academics the authors contacted for comment about their findings.
Despite the evident benefits of involvement with professors, 25 percent of students surveyed said they never interacted with faculty outside the classroom. The same percentage said they haven't discussed career plans or asked for job advice from their professors.
While our findings aver the importance of student-faculty interaction, they also suggest that additional opportunities exist for more meaningful interaction," the authors wrote. "Law schools may draw on these findings in considering strategies to promote and facilitate such interaction."
When it comes to overall satisfaction with law school, students appeared mostly content. Most 79 percent rated their law school experience as either "good" or "excellent." When asked whether they would attend the same law school if they could choose again, 33 responded "definitely yes;" 41 percent said "probably yes;" 17 percent would probably not attend the same school; and 8 percent definitely would not do so.
Despite a growing chorus of crisis and disaster in the press, students' evaluation of their legal education as well as their likelihood of attending the same school if they could begin anew have been remarkably stable over the years," the study concluded.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.