Insights is a SmartBrief Education Originals column that features the perspectives of recognized education experts and leaders on burning issues affecting K-12 schools, districts, colleges, and universities. . All contributors are selected by the SmartBrief Education editorial team.
For aspiring law students, May means one thing: LSAT prep.. Some students are drawn to a legal career by the prospect of upholding justice or effecting social change, and others by the opportunity to advance in a challenging career. Some might like to discuss. However, they all have something in common: they need learning support tailored to any stage of their professional journey and tailored to their individual learning preferences.
They might have trouble finding it.
A harsh environment
Admission to law school has always been a competitive affair, but lately the competition has intensified. In 2020, the candidate pool has increased by 13%the largest year-over-year increase since 2002. Although this surge seems to sag, law schools have even more applicants to choose from than before the pandemic. In addition, Average LSAT test taker scores at some schools have increasedputting extra pressure on students to excel during tests.
After three grueling years in school, new lawyers have no chance to catch their breath. Legal professionals in the United States operate in the same competitive atmosphere that permeates law schools, with top talent from around the world vying for a share of the country’s lucrative and expanding legal market. This is a good issue to have, as it gives the public access to high quality legal services.
However, to stand out and attract business, lawyers must be committed to learning throughout their careers. This way, they can hone their existing skills with exquisite sharpness, learn new skills as the field evolves, and offer high-quality advice to their clients. But that’s not possible without a professional development pipeline that includes resources designed to each legal professional’s specifications, gathered in one place, and organized to support them from their LSAT days through their retirement day.
The problem of legal lifelong learning today
Students who have started their LSAT preparations have probably already encountered a disappointment: the test material on offer is often disjointed, lacking in useful context and generally uninspiring. They may find themselves with many questions, such as the frequency and length of study, the order in which they should approach the material, and how the lessons fit into their wider career.
Having taken the LSAT myself and taught other students how to prepare for it, I know how fragmented and ineffective the professional support available to learners in this area at all stages can be. In law, there are resource shortcomings that have significant implications, given the profession’s demand on members for ever-increasing expertise. My hunch is that in the long term, if left unaddressed, the lack of effective lifelong learning tools threatens to completely destabilize the country’s position in the legal market.
Improvements needed in professional support
Several improvements can be made to the professional support offered to aspiring lawyers and practicing lawyers in order to give them the professional path necessary for their high-stakes work.
- Customizable content. No two people filter or absorb information in exactly the same way. The one-size-fits-all learning model often used in the lifelong learning industry does not take into account people’s unique learning patterns. Any degree of customization—like allowing students to choose different instructors for a single class based on the communication style they find easiest to engage with—can go a long way toward reducing learning difficulties. Along the same lines, offering lessons both in-person and digitally, at different times of the day and with multiple lesson attempts if necessary, can help students meet scheduling and performance challenges.
- Engaging content. No one learns the same way, but everyone learns best when the subject matter is interesting. Too often, LSAT and professional preparation resources are so dry that they become ineffective. Learners who engage with them are forced to expend energy in two directions at once: absorbing the information and preventing themselves from drifting. Interactive content designed to strike a balance between richness, authority, and entertainment can improve course delivery with less effort.
- Equity of access. Some groups have historically faces disproportionate obstacles entering the legal field. The tools made available to learners must be built with an awareness of this disparity, to avoid repeating the conditions that contributed to it, so that legal education remains open and effective for all.
- Structure that spans the entire career. Expecting busy students or legal professionals to make sense of a jumbled pile of learning resources themselves is a recipe for poor results. Intentional structure should be integrated with lifelong legal preparation content that stems from an insider’s look at the profession and spans the course of the typical legal career. Learning has no finish line — users should have access to all the tools most useful at the particular stage of development they have reached.
Helping legal professionals thrive in the competitive environments they face requires a paradigm shift in the lifelong professional preparation industry. Just as lawyers must continually evolve their knowledge, educational resources and professional support must adapt to the characteristics of the times and the needs of users, ensuring that the energy of our brightest legal minds is not wasted. . From the LSAT to the end of their legal practice, lawyers deserve better from their learning tools.
Matt Riley is the co-founder and CEO of Blueprint Prep, which provides lifelong professional training in the medical and legal industries. Riley has also been instrumental in the classroom teaching students about pre-law preparation, law school admissions, and how to succeed in law school.
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