Law grads give good marks to law schools

Despite the nation’s slow economic recovery and the continuing challenges facing the legal profession – particularly when it comes to employment — law students remain satisfied with their law school experiences, a recent survey of law students shows.

Sixty-five percent of the students surveyed in the annual Law School Survey of Student Engagement said their law schools gave them the resources needed to succeed academically. Less than half, however, said they were satisfied with their school career counseling and job search programs. Still, that's about the same percentage the survey revealed in 2007, before the job market crashed.  

“Conventional wisdom dictates that law students are less satisfied with career counseling services and job search help, given the downturn that became apparent in 2008,” said Aaron Taylor, director of the LSSSE and assistant professor of law at Saint Louis University School of Law. “These results suggest this assumption isn’t true.”

The survey also measured how many students participated in pro bono or clinical work as part of a course for academic credit. About 43 percent of third-year students reported never having participated in such coursework. Additionally 63 percent of second-year students and 87 percent of first-year students had never experienced pro bono or clinical work as part of law school coursework.

“Participation in clinical experiences is tied to higher level of student engagement and satisfaction,” Taylor said. “The appropriate balance between theory and practical experiences has been a significant area of focus in discussions of legal education reform.”

Taylor said the findings suggest that many students do not participate in school-sponsored experiential learning experiences, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Some students may find alternative internship or pro bono programs on their own.

Many students also reported a lack of interaction with faculty members outside of the classroom, with 25 percent of third-year students reporting frequent work with faculty members on activities other than coursework. Only 30 percent of third-year students reported working with faculty on legal research projects outside of program requirements.

“Student-faculty interaction is tied to higher levels of student engagement and satisfaction,” Taylor said. “These findings suggest that law schools could do a better job of encouraging interaction between students and faculty—and in the process improve the student experience.”

The LSSSE surveyed more than 26,000 students from 86 law schools across the country last year. The LSSSE gathers information from law students to help law schools determine what is going well, as well as what could be improved.

“The purpose of the report is to provide a glimpse of the state of legal education from the student perspective—which is too often overlooked,” Taylor said. “With more than 256,000 student responses since its inception in 2004, LSSSE is an extensive source of information about law students’ experiences, activities and attitudes.”