From Knowing That to Knowing How: Rubrics for Foundational Legal Reasoning Skills
First year law students struggle to make the transition from knowing what they read for class to knowing how to use it to solve legal problems. For most students, this is due to continued reliance on “osmotic transmission of tacit knowledge” teaching methods tied to casebooks and the Socratic method. Organizations such as CALI, the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning have worked for decades to disseminate information about more effective ways to teach students how to “think like a lawyer,” and those efforts are being accelerated by changes in ABA Accreditation Standards requiring more focus on learning outcomes and formative assessment. However, instruction in the most foundational legal reasoning skills too often remains consigned to implicit “hide the ball” interactions that leave students frustrated and confused. This presentation will demonstrate how those foundational reasoning processes can be described explicitly and concisely in rubrics, and how those rubrics can be used for student self-assessment, instructor assessment and student peer assessment to accelerate the process of learning how to “think like a lawyer” from the first day of law school.