The Strategic Planning Committee on Curriculum met earlier this afternoon at the University of Florida Levin College of Law to discuss procedure going forward on a broader curriculum review.
In light of the Florida Bar Examinations results, many students have inquired if any changes to the law school’s curriculum would be implemented. While there is no concrete yes or no answer, today’s discussion by the committee showed the joint, on-going effort between the faculty and administration to improve the quality of UF Law’s curriculum.
One of the first topics brought before the committee was a provisional approval of a three-credit-hour course to potentially be offered in Spring 2018. This course would require the class to meet two hours a week until spring break, and then the students would travel to China for six days.
The particulars of the class structure, the level of rigor involved, how the grade would be determined and the manner of financial support for the class was discussed in-depth by the committee.
While the committee decided to post-pone the vote on provisional approval of the class, this topic preluded issues in the discussion to come. UF Law faculty wants to offer exciting and unique opportunities through the curriculum, but resources often dictate whether these classes are feasible.
This led to a discussion on the Environmental Land Use and Real Estate Law (ELUREL) Certificate Program proposed by Professor Mary Jane Angelo.
Certificate programs are not new to UF Law; others have existed, including this one. It is also notable to recognize that a certificate is not a concentration, but instead parallel to a degree. In some cases certificates could hold more weight when it comes to finding jobs post-law school.
Being able to earn a certificate in law school is an important opportunity, according to UF Law alumni. Angelo disclosed that a survey sent out to alumni who practice law falling under the scope of a ELUREL certificate found that alumni heavily advocated the importance of continuing a program like this.
Angelo highlighted the core curriculum as well as extracurriculars needed by students who would want to earn the certificate. She also incorporated details regarding the flexibility of the program and relevance of the classes offered.
Student interest in this program and others like it is undisputed, but the issue of resources came to the forefront.
Much of the meeting boiled down to, “Are we a national, or are we a local law school?” according to professor Lars Noah. In essence, are we focusing solely on a curriculum that gets students ready for the bar examination or are we focusing on different branches of law and how to act in the legal world?
One might ask, “Why can’t we do both?”
Curriculum is not simple. Resources are limited. Typically if something is added, something might also be taken away. This is because when a professor signs on to teach a new class, that professor may no longer be able to teach another. The balance, in turn, is not facilitated if there is a waning number of faculty.
It all comes back to resources, and where to allocate them is not always clear.
The bar examination results have spurred administration to create focus groups to determine more effective ways to teach essential skills needed to pass the bar and to ultimately help students become a good lawyer.
This was the final topic addressed by the committee, though an element throughout the entirety of the meeting.
A broad review of the curriculum is in the works, but to conduct this sort of review, observation over time is required.
Searching for patterns within the last five years of UF’s curriculum could be crucial for evaluation purposes. Hanover Research, a company providing customized research analysis for different sectors – including education, provides UF Law with data for consideration. Plans are also in the works to gather curriculum details from other successful law schools to compare to ours and see what they do differently. The committee discussed methods of collecting feedback from other faculty members outside of the committee as well, as this evaluation process is just beginning.
At this point, everything seems to be in preliminary stages, but what is clear is the faculty’s dedication to do everything they can to give UF Law students the best education possible, both for bar exam prep and for life after the bar.