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October 03, 2016


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Scott Fruehwald

Law schools should teach their students study skills on orientation, based on how the brain works. One of these study skills is retrieval. Learning is the firing of neurons in the brain. Retrieval makes the neurons fire more strongly than just rereading a passage. In other words, retrieval helps learners retain things in long-term memory. Retrieval is easy to do; it's just a habit. The problem, as you note, is that many law professors refuse to look outside legal education to better understand how to help their students learn.

Similarly, spoon-feeding doesn't work because it is too easy. It doesn't cause the neurons to fire strongly. Active learning is better than passive learning. The more often a neuron is fired and the more strongly it fires, the better the retention.

Louis Schulze

Scott, thanks for your thoughts. What's particularly interesting to me is how the testing effect not only impacts retention and conversion into long-term memory, but also how it contributes to a better understanding of doctrine. I'll discuss in a future post about how this occurs via "elaboration."

I don't know if a refusal to look outside legal education is at play here. I think the biggest problems with the testing effect are that few people (in any field) know about it; the idea is counterintuitive; and many assume that this "testing" requires extensive prep. I hope each of these problems is solvable.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

I have an idea! How about returning to admission standards circa 1987 when getting into any ABA law school was a tough proposition? You won't need any of this psycho-babble junk science. Bar passage were pretty decent back then.... Law Schools today fail to attract the best and brightest because the profession is no longer a reasonable path to a sustainable middle class income. As long as there are struggling Solos, small firm attorneys and lack of government opportunities in a glutted market, (read: No jobs/fees/clients), law schools will be caught in this downward swirling vortex.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

I have an idea! How about admitting students circa 1987 standards when getting into nearly all ABA law schools was a tough proposition. Bar Passage rates were decent and you didn't need this pseudo science psycho babble. That won't happen, however. Its more about tuition dollars and boosting enrollments. Any practitioner who is struggling in this glutted market knows that along with the kids who can't find a first legal job. Law school enrollment has entered a downward spiral related to lack of jobs, fees, clients that are no longer a reasonable path to a sustainable path to middle class lifestyle. Can't hide by erasing posts you don't like.

Scott Fruehwald


You do realize that Professor Schulze's school, FIU, produced the best results on the Florida bar this year. If all law schools used the methods he is describing in these posts, they would also produce better graduates.

And, something isn't junk science just because you've never heard of it. There is a mountain of articles and books on the new science of learning.

Scott Fruehwald

And Captain,

If you want a bibliography on the science of learning, look at my post on the Legal Skills Prof Blog from yesterday morning.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

Law School is not a place for learning theory or coddling. The law is adversarial and if one can't get it or is slow on the uptake, one needs to rethink their career choice. During the 80s, I asked my professor "how does one learn to case briefing and IRAC?" His response, "How did you learn that fire was hot?" Al Gore lost the election because Bush had faster, better lawyers who got the answer right the first time. Maybe Gore's lawyers were coddled in law school with "learning theory?" Even at the trial court level. An urban, volume court judge expects lawyers appearing before her to "get it" and get it quickly. It's not bad temperament, you want folks who are sharp.

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