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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Advocacy Translates to Higher Grades!!!

S. Rafe Foreman is the Douglas Stripp Dean's Distinguished Professor and Director of Advocacy at the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law and a contributor to this blog.

Advocacy Translates to Higher Grades!!!

You heard me correctly. I teach both a doctrinal course (Evidence) as well as skills or clinical type courses (Trial Advocacy). I am still stinging from the EATS conference where one of my dear colleagues reported that her evidence professor at her law school reported to their faculty that skills courses have ZERO benefit, value or impact. Thankfully our faculty here at UMKC are more enlightened and supportive of our advocacy efforts. Advocacy and Entrepreneurship are the cornerstones of our law school and our Dean Suni and our faculty have long had the vision of experiential learning since the days the nationally famous Jim W. Jeans taught trial advocacy here.
I will be brief. My evidence grades are in and the proof is in the pudding. I had 74 students in my doctrinal evidence course. Of those, there were 21 who were also enrolled in our beginning Trial Advocacy 1 course. There were 9 of those 21 who were also on my national mock trial teams and Trial Advocacy 3 students, my advanced course.  The results prove the correlation between better grades and taking skills courses. Here is the proof.

The median grade point average for the class with all 74 was 2.7.  If you take the 21 students who were also in TA and take their average they did substantially better than the whole class average, they scored 3.1. But when you take OUT the TA students, to get a true comparison, between TA students in evidence as control group 1 vs. all others in evidence the results are vastly different. The TA evidence students had a 3.1 average compared to all others who had a median grade point average of 2.5!   Additionally the top FOUR students in order were all TA students and #1 and 2 were in TA 1 and on the national teams. Overall the TA students outperformed the others and their grades reflect this fact.

We utilize anonymous grading here and there was no way for the identity of these students to be known to me or my staff until after the grades were posted just this morning. I have been quick at work making the comparison. There are another 75 students in another professor’s evidence class and he is going to make the same calculations to see the correlation in that class as well.

I can tell you that the difference of 3.1 vs. 2.5 is significant enough but what thrills me is that the top student are TA students. Additionally I believe that other doctrinal classes may reveal similar results if tested. My conclusion is simple, anyone who is stating that Trial Advocacy courses have no value simply is wrong and not looking at the persuasive facts. I am thankful to work in a law school where all the faculty support advocacy skills training both by their words and actions.


  1. Rafe is absolutely right about the correlation between a valid practice course like trial advocacy and evidence. You can also see a direct correlation between practice courses and bar passage.

  2. I also think there is a great benefit to students when they take a doctrinal course such as evidence in conjunction with a trial advocacy class. The two reinforce each other and performance increases in both. I'm not sure how many of Rafe's students took trial ad and evidence in the same semester, but I know many schools offer tethered evidence/advocacy courses to get the benefit of each class reinforcing the other.

    My own experiences have been similar to Rafe's. I've found that my trial team members tend to do quite well in evidence. I usually start them on trial team the same semester they take evidence, but a semester before they can take trial ad (because of manpower and course sequencing issues, it is not possible for them to take my evidence course and trial advocacy in the same semester).