In this study of 380 students in a law school’s 2011 graduating class, the data demonstrates a strong correlation between high performance in legal writing courses and high performance in non-legal writing courses. There is also a strong correlation at the opposite end: low performers in legal writing courses are low performers in non-legal writing courses. This article provides the hard data to support the significance of writing skills by demonstrating the correlation between performance in legal writing courses and performance in other law school courses by comparing grades and Grade Point Averages (GPAs). Of course grades and GPA data are not the sole measures of success, but as other research has indicated, good grades often translate to job interviews, job offers, and ultimately, jobs — the true measure of success these days.
With the changing economy, declining employment statistics, downsizing legal employment market, increasing tuition at rates exceeding inflation, and a declining law school applicant pool, legal education cannot simply stand by and hope things get better. Information about how performance in legal writing correlates to law school performance outside of the legal writing course is nowhere close to curing any of these ills. Such information is, however, useful for schools in thinking about how to move forward. Slow as it may be to come or as difficult to manage, law schools must react to these and other changes; part of that reaction should include curricular reform that better prepares students for success — with success defined as after-graduation employment. To aid law schools in thinking about curricular reform, this article proves what legal writing professors and legal education reformers have known for a long time: legal writing courses are the linchpin of legal education.
Jessica L. Clark, Grades Matter; Legal Writing Grades Matter Most, 31 Miss. C. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2013).