Report gauges frequency, value of law school experiential learning opportunities

A report about law school experiential learning was released last week by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and the NALP Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to research about legal careers.

The 2010 Survey of Law School Experiential Learning asked practicing lawyers about the usefulness of their law school experiential learning opportunities. The survey respondents were exclusively associates in private law firms across the country. Almost 1,000 associates participated.

The associates were surveyed about their experiences in law school with respect to:

  1. legal clinics;
  2. externships/field placements;
  3. practice skills courses; and
  4. pro bono work done in law school.

Although we don't have data about KU Law student satisfaction with their experiences, we can report how many students in the Class of 2011 participated in clincs, externships and practice skills courses.

Clinics
30.2 percent of respondents reported that they had participated in at least one legal clinic during law school. Within this group, 63.1 percent rated these clinics "very useful" using a scale of 1 to 4 (with 1 being "not useful at all" and 4 being "very useful.") Only 3.9 percent of the respondents in this group rated the clinics as "not useful at all." At KU Law, 41 percent of 2011 grads participated in a clinic during law school.

Externships/field placements
Similarly, 36.2 percent of respondents reported having taken part in an externship, and 60.1 percent rated the experience as "very useful." Among the KU Law 2011 class, 48 percent of students took part in an externship.

The most common setting for first externships was a court or judge's chambers, while the most common setting for second assignments was a government agency or the legislature.

Practice skills courses
70.1 percent of responding associates had taken at least one practice skills course, but only 38.5 percent of respondents considered them to be "very useful." At KU Law, 83 percent of 2011 grads took at least one practice skills course.

Pro bono work
42.1 percent of respondents reported performing pro bono work during law school, but well over half of the respondents reported that they had performed fewer than 40 hours of pro bono. Respondents ranked the experience an average of 2.2 on the scale of 1 to 4.

The report is available as a free downloadable PDF at www.nalp.org/lawyer_student_PD.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

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