Vision, Mission, Goals
- Legal Doctrine and Substantive Knowledge. Lawyers use specialized words and concepts. To practice effectively, a lawyer must know a core set of legal concepts, the rules governing professional responsibility, and specialized doctrine in the lawyer’s practice area. Legal “doctrine,” moreover, encompasses more than the black-letter rules in a field; it includes the ambiguities and open issues within that field.
- Ability to Use Law-Related Materials and Processes. Lawyers use specialized materials, including judicial opinions, statutes, regulations, contracts, disclosure statements, depositions, jury instructions, etc. Legal professionals must know how to find, interpret, and apply these materials. Similarly, lawyers participate in a large number of law-related processes, such as contract negotiations, real estate closings, divorce settlements, administrative hearings, will preparation, trials, settlement conferences, and appeals. Legal professionals know how to navigate successfully the processes relevant to their practice areas.
- Critical Thinking and Problem-solving. Lawyers think critically about problems. Most lawyers use at least four types of critical thinking: (1) deductive reasoning, (2) cost-benefit analysis, (3) thinking by analogy, and (4) viewing problems from competing perspectives. Lawyers apply these thought processes both to specific legal materials (e.g., analyzing a case) and to resolving an overall problem (e.g., advising a client on a course of action).
- Communication. Legal work relies upon many communication methods. In fact, lawyers may employ more types of communication than any other professionals. “Communication” includes both receiving information and imparting it. Some of the many communication modes that lawyers use are: gathering information from clients; interviewing witnesses; corresponding with clients, colleagues, and others by email; advising clients by letter; writing memos; participating in meetings; drafting contracts; writing briefs; persuading juries; lobbying legislators and regulators; and making appellate arguments.
- Skills for Continued Development (Meta-cognition). Meta-cognition means the ability to reflect on one’s own thought processes, to improve those processes, and to adapt them to new situations. Law is a profession that requires constant learning and adaptation. Lawyers, therefore, must be able to recognize shortfalls in their own knowledge or training, devise ways to remedy those shortfalls, and pursue those remedies. Some cognitive scientists describe meta-cognition as the most essential intellectual ability in any professional field, because it allows a practitioner to move from competence to excellence.
- Interpersonal Skills and Professionalism. Lawyers interact with many different people, including clients, peers, supervisors, staff members, judges, and legislators. To succeed, lawyers need skills such as motivating others; influencing others; working as a team; and relating to people who differ culturally, economically, linguistically, or in other ways. In addition, successful lawyers must demonstrate professionalism for effective and ethical participation in the legal profession.
- Professional Judgment. At a minimum, professional judgment requires combining the above elements to solve a particular problem. But effective judgment seems to be more than the sum of these parts. In addition to knowing the rules of professional responsibility and applying them critically to a particular case, for example, a lawyer’s professional judgment includes a special sensitivity to ethical issues. Expert lawyers also have the ability to recognize key elements in complex problems: One situation may require sophisticated research and case analysis, while another will respond to a simple nonlegal solution. Professional judgment also encompasses the ability to change tactics as a client’s needs evolve; few legal situations are static.
Our Program Learning Outcomes
Legal Doctrine and Substantive Knowledge
1.1 Students will demonstrate proficiency in explaining and applying the core concepts in the following areas:
1.1.1. The required first-year curriculum: Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Analysis and Writing, Legislation, and Property.
1.1.2. The upper-division required courses of Constitutional Law, Professional Responsibility, and second-year legal writing course.
1.1.3. Upper-division elective courses, which together may fit within a general area of study as identified by the list of “Course Areas” in the “Guide to the Upper-Class Curriculum.”
1.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to identify ambiguous, unsettled, or open issues in a field of law and the ability to apply a reasoned perspective to analyze those issues.
1.3. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the sources, processes, and theories of law and legal change.
Ability to Use Law-Related Materials and Processes
2.1. Students will demonstrate the ability to use effective legal research strategies to find relevant sources using the fundamental tools of legal research.
2.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to assess, interpret, and synthesize legal sources relevant to resolving a legal issue, including thinking critically about how to apply those sources.
2.3. Students will demonstrate proficiency in legal practice skills appropriate to their professional goals. For instance, students may develop proficiency in skills such as fact gathering, interviewing, negotiation, dispute resolution, pre-trial and trial practice, legislative advocacy, administrative representation, regulatory enforcement, client counseling, or legal drafting. As relevant to professional goals, students will demonstrate an awareness of technologies that assist in the practice of law, such as technologies that create practice-related documents or help lawyers manage information.
Critical Thinking and Problem-solving
3.1. Students will demonstrate the ability to engage in effective legal analysis and reasoning, including the following types of critical thinking: (1) deductive reasoning, (2) cost-benefit analysis, (3) thinking by analogy, and (4) viewing problems from competing perspectives.
3.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to investigate, analyze, and resolve real or simulated client problems, which may include working with the client to identify the client’s interests and objectives; gathering relevant facts; adapting to changed circumstances; identifying ethical issues; anticipating and assessing risks; identifying appropriate courses of action; advising the client; and implementing a course of action.
4.1. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively and ethically about legal matters in writing to a variety of audiences, including objective and persuasive writing, and including drafting legal documents such as legal memoranda, briefs, contracts, and client communications.
4.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to engage effectively and ethically in factual development related to a representation, which may include skills such as developing a plan for fact development; gathering information from a variety of sources; conducting interviews; listening; and assessing the reliability of information.
4.3. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate legal analysis effectively and ethically through speaking in contexts related to their professional goals. Common contexts include client counseling; negotiation; mediation; trial; appellate arguments; administrative proceedings; legislative advocacy; and meetings.
Skills for Continued Development (Meta-cognition)
5.1. Students will demonstrate the ability to reflect on their own thought processes in order to improve and adapt them.
5.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to adapt their knowledge and training to new situations, including processes or areas of the law with which they are unfamiliar, through independent learning, legal research, and consultation with others.
Interpersonal Skills and Professionalism
6.1. Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively work in groups, including demonstrating that they have learned to delegate responsibility, divide work equitably, pool knowledge, challenge arguments, and refine understanding through discussion and debate.
6.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to listen to and engage with ideas and arguments that differ from their own, and demonstrate an awareness of conscious and unconscious biases that influence their interactions with clients, peers, judges and others.
6.3. Students will demonstrate the ability to listen to, communicate with, and engage with others in a professional and respectful manner.
7.1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of and an ability to conform to the rules of professional conduct by identifying, explaining, and applying the applicable rules of professional conduct.
7.2. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate their advice and analysis in a manner appropriate to the particular needs of a client, and will demonstrate the ability to adapt their advice as the client’s needs evolve.
7.3. Students will demonstrate an awareness of a lawyer’s responsibility to seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.
Learning Outcomes and Assessment Plan
ABA Standard 315 requires “[t]he dean and the faculty of a law school” to “conduct ongoing evaluation of the law school’s . . . learning outcomes”; the dean and faculty are directed to “use the results of this evaluation to determine the degree of student attainment of competency in the learning outcomes and to make appropriate changes to improve the curriculum.”
The College’s assessment plan implements this requirement by setting out a four-year schedule for evaluation of the College’s Program Learning Goals and the student outcomes associated with these goals. The College’s Learning Outcomes and Assessment Plan is available here.
Methods of Assessment
|Direct Measures||Indirect Measures|
|Licensure examination||Student survey|
|Classroom assessment||Employer feedback|
|Seminar requirement||Student evaluation of instruction|
|Professional skills requirement||Job placement|
Use of Data
- Analyze, discuss, and adapt curricular and programmatic content
- Accreditation and program reviews
- Periodic self-study of pedagogy