Building Belonging: Proven Methods to Decrease Attrition and Best Serve Law Students
Law Review Article
academic success programs, best practices, student attrition, race and ethnicity
A crucial task for legal educators is to determine how to retain our students, especially those who may be most vulnerable to attrition – first-generation students and students of color. This article looks at nine similarly situated ABA-accredited law schools and assesses these schools’ success at retaining their students. The nine schools are all public, operate both part-time and full-time programs, generally enjoy above average diversity, and have somewhat similar national rankings. The nine schools also report similar median LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of recent incoming classes. The overall attrition rates and attrition rates for students of color vary somewhat among these schools; however, taken as a whole, the schools show a downward trend in attrition over the last eleven years. They have also enjoyed a general upward trend in median LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs for their incoming 1L classes, a shift which may partially explain the simultaneous decrease in attrition. However, the reduction in attrition can also be tied to the schools' increased, intentional efforts to retain students. Because these efforts are essential to retaining law students who may be particularly vulnerable to attrition, interviews were conducted with the nine schools’ academic success directors, administrators, faculty, and alumni to determine the schools’ most effective methods of retention. From this study of successful institutions and from the guidance of experienced and successful law school educators and alumni, a practical, hands-on model of best practices was developed.