Bar Examinations and High-Stakes Assessments

Title

1L Is the New Bar Prep

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date

12-2017

Keywords

bar preparation, legal writing programs, law school curriculum, formative assessment, self-regulated learning, transfer of learning

Abstract

Law school graduates, in growing numbers, are failing the bar exam. This reality is all the more staggering when we consider that these graduates have been preparing for the bar exam since their first year of law school. First-year legaI-writing courses teach students specific fundamental skills that are the foundation for success on the bar exam. This Article provides the perspective that the goal of passing the bar exam and teaching Iaw students to think and write like lawyers is a symbiotic relationship. It directly analyzes the correlation between the fundamental skills associated with thinking like a lawyer and successful bar-essay writing.

The question then becomes, if law schools are teaching these skills, why do students continue to struggle with the bar exam? To answer that question, this Article analyzes the challenges law students face when they are required to apply the skills learned in an earlier context to a later assignment. Without proper instruction and sustained practice, it is unrealistic to expect law students to retain the skills necessary to solve one legal problem and then later apply those same skills to solve a different problem. This Article emphasizes how law schools have a duty to bridge the gap and foster the transfer of learning from the first year of law school to bar preparation. To guide law schools in better preparing their students for passing the bar exam, this Article concludes with a comprehensive approach detailing how law faculties can facilitate the transfer of fundamental skills from the beginning to the end of law school.

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