Success on the Bar Exam

commercial paper

Did you remember anything about commercial paper the day after taking the bar exam? Hopefully not.

Passing the bar is an important individual goal; raising the school’s overall pass rate is an important institutional goal.  What has DU Law as an institution done to support our grads in their endeavor?  A lot, as it turns out:

In the Summer of 2007, the Law School started the first Bar Success Program.

In May of 2007, Prof. Mary Steefel, Director of the Academic Achievement Program, was charged with putting together a bar support program for that July’s exam.  Despite these extreme time constraints, Prof. Steefel was able to assemble a team that provided substantial instruction and feedback to our 2007 grads on the written portions of the bar exam (the essays and performance tests).

Later that year, DU hired Prof. Scott Johns as the full-time Director of the DU Bar Success Program.

In appropriate recognition of the fact that any supplemental bar exam program would demand significant resources and could not simply be added to the already heavy docket of AAP, the Law School hired Prof. Scott Johns.  Since coming on board, Prof. Johns has put together a comprehensive program offered in the summers and winters prior to the exam as a supplement to the commercial programs.

The curriculum includes weekly workshops with instruction followed by written exercises.  A team of writing instructors, other professors, and even one judge (!) provides extensive feedback on these exercises.  importantly, the program also offers a series of mock bar exams that simulate the test day experience.  Finally, the program incorporates individual conferences and small group work.

DU’s Bar Success Program is offered free to any DU Law grad—current or former—and has understandably seen increased enrollment every year since it was first offered.

In 2008, the Law School funded an additional lecturer position, ultimately filled by me, which provides additional administrative and teaching support to both the Bar Success and Academic Achievement Programs.

And indeed, the Academic Achievement Program and the Bar Success Program are intimately connected, both through personnel and programatic efforts.  DU offers a sort of “soup to nuts” academic support network:

Prior to law school, pre 1Ls can participate in the Summer Preview, a popular program which provides early exposure to some of the core academic skills necessary to succeed in law school.

In the first year of law school, AAP Student Leaders, who are trained and supervised by AAP, provide academic support, guidance and feedback to 1Ls.  Students in every individual section of torts, civil procedure, contracts and criminal law have one or more Student Leaders assigned to their class for this purpose.

In addition, AAP Writing Specialist Kate Stoker is available to work one-on-one with any 1Ls who want additional feedback and guidance on their writing efforts.

In a similar vein, Prof. Steefel and I are available to any student (1L or otherwise) for consultation on academic skills.

One of the key innovations supported by the Law School is the addition of a new course aimed primarily at 2Ls: Intermediate Legal Analysis.  With sections taught by Profs. Steefel, Johns and myself, ILA serves to reinforce essential analytical reasoning skills and provide an opportunity to practice some of the specific skills required for successful performance on the bar exam.

Finally, prior to graduation, 3Ls are encouraged to take a course taught by Prof. Johns called Legal Analysis Strategies.  This really provides students with their first intensive exposure to the types of problems they will face when they take the bar exam.

Perhaps one of the most important intangible benefits that students receive from the Bar Success and Academic Achievement Programs is a sense that the Law School and its faculty are invested in the students’ success, and are available to support them in their endeavors.

The scope of DU’s Academic Achievement and Bar Success Program is broad and—I hope—growing, as these programs are recognized as a key component in supporting all of our students’ success in law school and beyond.


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