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STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES

Cal Northern School of Law (CNSL) has adopted a set of specific student learning outcomes which are mission-based, providing both academic and practical instruction, to best prepare students for careers in the legal profession.

To assess achievement of course and program objectives, CNSL has developed various strategies to measure student success. Through direct review of students’ work, CNSL is able to measure individual proficiency and mastery of the course objectives and to gather information on the effectiveness of its program. Through indirect evidence, CNSL is able to measure the student’s self-perceptions of their learning and experience of the program and curriculum.

Juris Doctorate Student Learning Outcomes

Juris Doctorate graduates of CNSL will:

Outcome 1: Demonstrate the understanding of key concepts in substantive law.

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Identify and comprehend the principles of the substantive subjects tested on bar examinations, including the evolution of that law and its policy underpinnings.
• Identify and comprehend the structure and jurisdiction of federal and state courts in the United States and the function of precedent.
• Explain the processes of federal and state civil procedure.

Outcome 2: Demonstrate critical thinking skills by performing competent legal analysis, reasoning and problem solving.

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Read critically applicable authority (Constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, cases) including identifying relevant legal rules and underlying policy.
• Identify key issues in factual situations.
• Analogize the facts to, and distinguish the facts from, those of precedent cases to predict the likely outcome of the case.
• Synthesize relevant rules of law into a logical framework for analysis, including determining which rule a court is likely to apply where rules conflict.
• Apply identified rules to the relevant facts and evaluate potential counterarguments to predict the likely outcome of the case.

Outcome 3: Communicate effectively orally and in writing regarding legal matters.

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Speak effectively in a clear, concise, well-organized, well-reasoned and professional manner.
• Write persuasive and professional documents using clear, concise, well-organized and well-reasoned language.
• Cite appropriate authority, including any relevant contrary authority.
• Listen actively to clients, judges, and colleagues.

Outcome 4: Demonstrate an understanding of the ethical rules that govern the legal profession.strong>

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Identify and comprehend the applicable law governing legal ethics.
• Apply knowledge of legal ethics to representation of clients, performance of duties as an officer of the courts, and resolution of ethical dilemmas.
• Demonstrate professional judgment and professionalism through conduct consistent with the legal profession’s values and standards.

Outcome 5. Demonstrate the ability to perform legal research.

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Design and implement a logical research plan, weighing time and resource constraints.
• Employ appropriate resources and technologies to retrieve, use and manage research materials.
• Assess accurately the weight of authority.

Outcome 6: Advocate, collaborate, and problem-solve effectively in formal and informal dispute resolution processes.

Graduates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Design a plan to resolve client issues, tailored to the client’s objectives and legal options available.
• Identify the practical considerations in pursuing legal remedies.
• Recognize and appreciate litigation alternatives, including arbitration, mediation, and negotiation.

 

Master of Legal Studies Student Learning Outcomes

Master of Legal Studies graduates of CNSL will:

Outcome 1: Demonstrate the understanding fundamental legal principles in the American legal system.

Masters Candidates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Identify fundamental legal principles and apply them in specific factual situations.
• Use standard legal terms correctly.
• Explain the processes of federal and state civil procedure.

Outcome 2: Demonstrate critical thinking skills by performing competent legal and non-legal analysis, reasoning and problem solving.

Masters Candidates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Read critically applicable authority (Constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, cases) including identifying relevant legal rules and underlying policy.
• Analogize the facts to, and distinguish the facts from, those of precedent cases to analyze possible outcomes of the cases.
• Synthesize relevant rules of law into a logical framework for analysis.

Outcome 3: Demonstrate mastery of appropriate strategies and technologies to research legal and non-legal issues effectively and efficiently.

Masters Candidates will demonstrate the ability to:
• Design and implement a logical research plan, weighing time and resource constraints.
• Employ appropriate resources and technologies to retrieve, use and manage research materials.

Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

The following table shows the assessments that have been accomplished by Cal Northern faculty.

Period AssessedCourse AssessedStudent Year AssessedStudent Learning Outcome
Fall 2014Business AssociationsThird YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking - Case and Statute Analysis
Business AssociationsThird YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Written Communication
Spring 2015Trial AdvocacyFourth YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Written Communication
Trial AdvocacyFourth YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Oral Communication
Summer 2015 Legal ResearchFirst YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking – Case and Statute Analysis
Fall 2015Legal WritingFirst YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Written Communication
Intro to Law SchoolFirst YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking - Case and Statute Analysis
Spring 2016Self-Help ClinicThird YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking – Problem Solving
Self-Help ClinicThird YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Written Communication
Self-Help ClinicThird YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Oral Communication
Summer 2016ADRFirst YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking – Problem Analysis
ADRFirst YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking – Problem Solving
ADRFirst YearSLO #3 Communication Skills – Oral Communication
Fall 2016ContractsFirst YearSLO #1 Doctrinal Knowledge – Substantive Law
Spring 2017Criminal LawFirst YearSLO #1 Doctrinal Knowledge – Substantive Law
Summer 2017Civil ProcedureSecond YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking - Problem Solving
Civil ProcedureSecond YearSLO #2 Critical Thinking - Problem Analysis

Analysis of Assessment Results

SLO #1 Doctrinal Knowledge – Substantive Law has been assessed twice, once in the Fall of 2016 and once in the Spring of 2017. Both of these assessments were in the First Year courses of Contracts and Criminal Law. The assessments show that students are appropriately developing their understanding of substantive law.

 SLO #2 Critical Thinking – Case and Statute Analysis has been assessed three times. The first assessment was in the Third Year course of Business Associations in the Fall of 2014. The second assessment was in the First Year course of Legal Research in the Summer of 2015. The third assessment was in the First Year course of Introduction to Law School in the Fall of 2015. The data show that, as expected, first year law students are developing their abilities to analyze cases and statutes. The third year students are highly proficient at analyzing cases and statutes.

SLO #2 Critical Thinking – Problem Solving and Problem Analysis have been assessed twice. The first assessment was problem solving in the Third Year Self-Help Clinic in the Spring of 2016. The second assessment was in the Summer of 2016 in the First Year course of Alternative Dispute Resolution which assessed student achievement in both problem solving and problem analysis. The data show that students in the ADR course were in the developmental stage of being able to effectively analyze and solve problems with students averaging 1.9 on a 4 point scale. However, by the end of the course, students were averaging 3.2 on the 4 point scale showing improvement and success in this SLO. By the Third year, all students were competent to highly proficient at problem solving with no student in the third year still developing this skill.

SLO #3 Communication Skills – Written Communication has been assessed four times. The first assessment was in the Third Year Business Associations course. The second assessment was in the Fourth Year Trial Advocacy course. The third assessment was in the First Year Legal Writing course. The fourth assessment was in the Third Year Self-Help Clinic. The data show that first year law students are developing their written communication skills. By the third year, students are competent to highly proficient at written communication. The fourth year students are all proficient to highly proficient in their written communication skills.

SLO #3 Communication Skills – Oral Communication has been assessed three times. The first assessment was in the Fourth Year course in Trial Advocacy, the second assessment was in the Third Year Self-Help Clinic, and the third assessment was in the First Year course in Alternative Dispute Resolution. The data show that students in the first year were in the developmental state of their oral communication skills averaging 1.9 on a 4 point scale. However, by the end of the course, students averaged 3.7 on the 4 point scale showing improvement and success in this SLO at that level. By the third year, the majority of students (81%) were competent to proficient in oral communication skills, with the remaining students (19%) being highly proficient. The results in the fourth year course showed that 80% of the students were highly proficient communicators.

Juris Doctor Program Learning Outcomes Assessment 1L

Cal Northern School of Law has created six Student Learning Outcomes for the Juris Doctor program. In the Spring semester 2017, faculty assessed students in the JD program as they completed the first year curriculum in Torts, Contracts and Criminal Law on three of the six outcomes. Students were assessed on their understanding of substantive law, their ability to think critically, and their ability to communicate effectively through exam writing. Students were given a rating of Beginning, Developing, Proficient, or Highly Proficient.

The table below focuses on three outcomes aligned with completing the first year of the JD program.

Learning OutcomeBeginningDevelopingProficientDeveloping to Proficient
Knowledge of Law22%56%22%78%
Critical Thinking44%39%17%56%
Communication39%39%22%61%

CNSL is encouraged by the results of this first assessment for the 1L students. Faculty will continue to assess students as they progress through the curriculum. This year is the baseline to compare outcome results for future years to ensure that the education provided by Cal Northern continues to meet the school’s and the students’ objectives.

Retention and Graduation Rates

Year EnrolledNumber EnrolledVoluntary WithdrawalAcademic ExclusionRetention Rate*Number of Graduates**Graduation Rate of Students Retained at end of First Year
20102771037%990%
20113817639%1387%
20122211241%9100%
2013174359%990%
2014114336%
2015184361%

*Retention rate refers to the number of students retained at the end of the first year who advance to the second year of study.

**Number of graduates refers to the number of students who graduate from the entering year cohort. Generally, students proceed as a cohort through the required courses, but occasionally graduation may be delayed if a student takes a leave of absence or must repeat academic work.

First Year Retention by Race/Ethnicity

Race/EthnicityFall 2013Fall 2014Fall 20153 Year Average
Hispanic33%0%50%28%
African American100%N/AN/A100%
White62%50%60%57%
OtherN/AN/A100%100%

*”Other” includes students identifying as Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

First Year Retention by Gender

GenderFall 2013
(N = 17)
Fall 2014
(N = 11)
Fall 2015
(N = 18)
Male60%50%27%
Female40%50%73%

N = The number of students enrolled in the starting cohort. For example, of the 17 students enrolled in Fall 2013, 59% were retained at the end of the 1st year and, of those retained, 60% were male and 40% were female.

Student Course Evaluations

2015-2016 Student Courses Evaluations show students expressed 91% satisfaction with their instructor’s overall performance; 63% of the faculty received 100% satisfaction ratings.

Graduate Survey

According to the law school’s most recent Graduate Survey sent to the 2016 and 2017 graduates, all of the 50% who responded reported overall satisfaction with their law school experience; 56% were extremely satisfied and 44% were moderately satisfied.

Graduate Bar Pass Rates*

Graduating ClassNumber of Graduates TakingFirst Time Taker % Pass RateOverall Passing %
20091354%85%
20101145%82%
2011850%75%
2012617%86%
2013863%75%
20141090%90%
20151030%19%
2016944%

*A metric by which to evaluate CNSL’s bar pass rate record is the Committee of bar Examiners (CBE) minimum cumulative bar pass rate (MPR), Guideline 12.1, which requires CBE-accredited law schools to maintain a cumulative bar pass rate on the California Bar Exam of 40% over a five-year period for bar takers who graduate within a specified time frame. California’s three-day bar exam was one of the most challenging exams in the nation, with a pass rate that typically hovered around 50%. Starting in July 2017, the California bar exam is a two-day exam. The CBE has advised that, as of January 1, 2016, a new state law bars the release of data that identifies bar takers. Without that data, CNSL cannot update this chart.

*Information about California Bar Examination pass rates can be found on the State Bar’s website.

Bar Pass Rates

Cal Northern’s July 2016 First Time Taker Bar Pass Rate was 44% (4 out of 9).  As of January 1, 2016, a new state law bars the release of bar takers data so we have no way of knowing if any repeaters took or passed the bar exam and will be unable to calculate overall bar pass rates until such time as the State law is amended.

The Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) requires accredited law schools to maintain a 5-year cumulative bar pass rate of 40% for bar takers who graduate within a specific time frame.

Cal Northern’s 5-year cumulative bar pass rate for its students that have graduated between 2012 and 2016 is 77%.

Employment Outcomes

Employment After Graduation2013201420152016Total
Private Sector
Law Firm Associate
22116
Private Sector
Self-Employed Attorney
1326
Government
Public Sector Employee
123
Other Law Related123
Other, Non-Law Related11
Status Unknown443617
Total Graduates8109936

Of the graduates who responded, 95% reported employment after graduation in law related jobs in both the private and public sector. Of those graduates who did not respond to the survey, according to the State Bar attorney membership records, 65% are listed as employed in law related jobs in both the private and public sector.