Center for Law Success

The mission of Law Success is to help prepare students for success in law school, on the bar exam, and in practice. To accomplish this mission, the Law Success program takes an innovative, data-driven approach to student growth by using assessments and data-gathering to plan legal skills development, bar exam initiatives, and individual academic counseling.

The data also forms the foundation of our rigorous legal skills curriculum, including our first-year writing and lawyering class and our third-year bar preparation for credit course, and involves significant writing development, practice readiness simulations, and individual student skill building.

The more of an impact we have with the students, the more it helps them achieve a larger goal so they can be successful for themselves. We’re not just impacting the people who walk through the door, but really the entire class.

Afton Cavanaugh, Executive Director of Law Success & Service Professor of Law

Afton Cavanaugh Faculty Picture

Academic Advising

Two female law students walking with a male professor in front of the law library

The Office of Law Success recognizes that students come to law school with several goals – to succeed in school, to pass the bar exam and to utilize their law degree to great success.

To provide a consistent point of contact in accomplishing that goal, every student is paired with an academic adviser their first year that will serve as their adviser and instructor in their first-year course and then will continue as their academic adviser until graduation. Students can meet with their adviser as regularly as they would like for guidance, including to receive individualized advice, to develop academic and legal skills, and to prepare themselves as a young professional for the practice of law.

Law Success Curriculum

St. Mary’s Law is committed to the success of every one of its law students. Thus, the St. Mary’s Office of Law Success ensures that each student has the skills to succeed in law school and in practice. The Office of Law Success accomplishes this through an innovative curriculum that spans students’ legal education.

Further, the Law Success Program conducts assessments of student performance so that students and faculty can then focus on the skills each student must work most to develop to find success. Students at any stage of this process are welcome to stop by and visit the Law Success faculty to discuss academic issues or to improve their skills, for and on various areas of law study, or simply to chat with their assigned Law Success Instructor. Read more about the origin and goals of the Law Success Program, nationally unmatched in size and scope.

Students and their families sit in the law school courtroom, addressed by two professors

Although 1L Orientation is overseen by Admissions, the Office of Law Success presents lectures on subjects including critical thinking and logical argument, understanding and synthesizing the law, reading and briefing cases, and notetaking and outlining.

Entering students complete a battery of skill assessments that measure critical thinking, writing, and evaluation. These assessments produce performance indicators on the incoming 1L’s initial skill levels. Students then work with their Law Success Instructors through their first-year course and individually to improve and strengthen critical areas.

Incoming Law Student Orientation

LCAP I (3 credits) – Taken in the fall of their 1L year, Legal Communication, Analysis and Professionalism (LCAP), is a core part of the first-year legal curriculum that helps students build skills in the foundational areas of case analysis, legal research, legal writing, and professionalism. Written exercises, including the drafting of client letters and legal memoranda, are required. Students will also learn the basics of client communication and client interviewing.  LCAP is a rigorous course designed to push students to become outstanding legal communicators.

LCAP II (3 credits) – Taken in the spring of their 1L year, students continue to build foundational legal writing, communication, and professionalism skills. Students will learn various aspects of intra-office communication, including professional emails, and meeting with attorneys to present findings and analysis. The course will culminate in the drafting of an appellate brief that requires complex legal analysis, and a subsequent mock oral argument.

Academic Skills Workshops – Throughout the 1L year, Law Success faculty will hold in-depth workshops covering topics essential to success in law school, such as reading judicial opinions, notetaking, and exam preparation. We have also developed a one-of-a-kind Skills Library to help assist students who might need help in one or more key skills necessary to achieve success in law school and ultimately in practice.

1L Year (Fall and Spring)

Second Year Orientation is mandatory for rising 2Ls. In this orientation, students look ahead to the goals and activities that define the 2L experience. This orientation program will be taught again over the Christmas Break for those in the Evening Program. All 2L students will also take an assessment to determine their strengths and weaknesses coming out of the 1L year.

2L Orientation

During the 2L Year, the Law Success Program provides academic workshops, programs, and personal coaching to 2L students.  A series of workshops and programs is presented each semester that is designed to tackle academic and professional topics of vital interest to 2L students. 

Critical to this programming is writing workshops that give guidance to students preparing for internships and employment, as well as programs focused on achieving bar readiness and maintaining knowledge of bar exam subjects. 

Finally, academic coaching remains available for any 2L who wants to work on academic skills or writing, or get help with study schedules, study techniques, or test taking strategies. 

2L Year (Fall and Spring)

Third Year Orientation is mandatory for rising 3Ls. In this orientation, students work to assess and then improve their readiness for the bar exam and law practice. All 3L students will work with the Raise the Bar program to review the results of the work they produced during the 3L Orientation and to look ahead to achieving success on the bar exam.

3L Orientation

Bar Prep for Credit (2 credits) – This course covers each component of the bar exam, with a focus on the most heavily-weighted parts and offers students the opportunity to get a head start on their preparation for this last step before professional licensure. The course also covers other valuable skills that affect test performance, including effective study techniques, time management, and self-assessment. Bar Prep for Credit is mandatory for students in the bottom 50% of the class but is also open to all students interested in having a head start in preparing for the bar exam.

Raise the Bar (Voluntary) – Raise the Bar is not a course, but a one-of-a-kind supplement to commercial bar study programs. The mission of the Raise the Bar program is to help students pass the bar exam. To achieve that mission, Raise the Bar provides bar takers critical guidance as well as one-on-one support. The program is innovative and data-driven, built around what St. Mary’s students need to pass the bar exam.

The program begins with Law Success faculty meeting with students one-on-one to create personalized study schedules. Law Success faculty then hold numerous review sessions covering the topics most frequently tested on the bar exam, as well as administer practice questions for each section of the bar exam. Students can submit practice work they complete to their Raise the Bar instructor for individualized feedback. The comprehensive Raise the Bar website contains all the course videos and practice problems, making the resources available to all students 24/7.

3L Year (Fall, Spring and Bar Exam Prep)
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