Law Students

Survey Captures 3L Ennui

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Law schools considering whether to allow laptops in the classroom might want to take the year of the students into account.

A new study finds that third-year law students are more likely than other students to use laptops during class to surf the Web or to send e-mails and instant messages. Students who use their laptops for such distracting purposes are also less engaged overall, the study found.

But students who often use their laptops to take notes, review lecture ideas or read their case briefs were more likely to come to class prepared, contribute to class discussions, and synthesize material across courses, according to a press release summarizing the study. Such students were also more likely to work hard to meet faculty expectations.

Distractions posed by laptops with Internet access have prompted some law professors to ban the computers and one law school—the University of Chicago—to shut down Internet access in most classrooms.

U of C law dean Saul Levmore told students and faculty in an e-mail last April that he took action after classroom observers told him about an “epidemic” of Internet use in class. “Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes and within 20 minutes, an entire row is shoe shopping,” he said.

The study by the Law School Survey of Student Engagement surveyed more than 29,000 law students at 85 law schools. It also had some other observations about 3Ls.

Third-year students spent less time on their studies but were more involved in co-curricular activities such as law journal, internships, pro bono work and research projects.

Some other survey findings:

• Students with higher law school grades also spent more time participating in co-curricular activities.

• Students who didn’t enter law school immediately after college spent more time studying and less time socializing.

• Students at smaller schools and religious-affiliated private schools were more likely to say law school helped them act with integrity and strengthened their commitment to the public good.

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