Elon University School of Law will study the impact and benefits of its innovative new curriculum, and then publicly share those results to advance American legal education, with support of a $259,000 grant from the Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis.

Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis awarded Elon Law a grant to study the impact of its new curriculumAccess Group awarded the grant to Elon Law to work with RTI International, an international research institute whose mission is to “improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.”

Researchers will collect and analyze admissions data, test scores and grades, satisfaction surveys, bar passage and job placement data to create a clearer picture of the way prospective students learn about the law school and, once enrolled, how the curriculum and other resources affect their learning success.

The project will help Elon Law:

  • Develop a rich database of information that will provide opportunity for research by Elon Law and others, furthering the school’s mission as the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law;
  • Identify strengths and areas that need assistance as faculty and staff work toward a culture of continual improvement in all aspects of the school;
  • Develop objective assessments about student success and improvements in teaching and learning that can help improve performance in key areas and inform admissions decisions;
  • Better fulfill obligations under ABA Standard 315 to review and assess Elon Law’s academic program on an ongoing basis;
  • Contribute to a capacity for philanthropic fundraising that will allow Elon Law to continue to grow; and
  • Further develop and strengthen a partnership with Access Group, which is building a broad agenda to support innovation in legal education.

“This research project is about the future of legal education,” said Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman. “While we pride ourselves on being the preeminent school for engaged and experiential learning in law, it’s important that Elon Law share the findings of this study with anyone who feels as we do about the need for redesigning approaches to educating law students. There are no better partners than Access Group and RTI International for Elon Law to work with on assessing these curricular innovations and leading the transformation of American legal education.”

Elon Law redesigned its curriculum for students who entered the program beginning in fall 2015. The seven-trimester, 2.5-year program provides students with the same number of academic credits but in shorter time than traditional law school programs, thereby giving graduates a head start on their professional careers.

Elon University School of Law will study the impact and benefits of its innovative new curriculum

“Support from Access Group is vitally important to studying the impact of our new approach to legal education,” said Enrique Armijo, associate dean for academic affairs at Elon Law. “We believe that our highly sequenced curriculum, combined with the experiential education they receive in our unique residencies-in-practice, will better prepare students for the rigors of the legal profession.

“This Access Group grant will show us what’s going well at Elon Law, where we have opportunities to make our program even better, and, hopefully, where we’ve benefitted in unexpected ways because of our willingness to reimagine what a legal education today should be.”

Armijo serves as co-principal investigator of the grant with Rob Springer, director of institutional research at Elon University.

The new curriculum costs students nearly 20 percent less than the average total they would otherwise pay at other private American law schools. Its heavy emphasis on experiential learning is anchored by a residency-in-practice that students complete during their second year, with additional “lab” and bridge courses designed to connect out-of-class work experiences to legal theories and doctrine taught by faculty.

“Access Group is pleased to award this grant to Elon University School of Law to help Elon evaluate the success of their new curriculum designed to provide an innovative, less expensive law school experience,” said Christopher P. Chapman, Access Group’s president and chief executive officer.

Founded in 1983, Access Group is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of nearly 200 nonprofit and state-affiliated ABA-approved law schools. From providing financial education resources and services for students and schools, to supporting research and grant programs, data collection and analysis, to driving policy advocacy, Access Group works to promote broad access, increased affordability and the value of legal education.

Access Group is headquartered in West Chester, Pennsylvania; its Center for Research and Policy Analysis is located in Washington, D.C. The organization launched its research and grant-making activities in June 2014. Since that time, it has awarded more than $2.8 million in grants.