Photograph: Students in a classroom.

Expert Learning Program

Washburn Law has developed a nationally recognized first-year program, Expert Learning, to help you maximize your potential for success in law school, on the bar exam, and in law practice. Incoming students take advantage of this program by starting law school a week earlier than second- and third-year students.

Expert Learning’s rigorous First Week Program teaches strategies to develop the skills needed for academic success. You will work on daily assignments and special projects in small “law firms” – study groups consisting of four to six new students and a carefully trained and closely supervised upper-division law student “partner.” These group sessions help students learn from each other and de-emphasize competition.

The Expert Learning Program at Washburn Law has two parts:

  • The First Week component, integrated into one of your first semester classes, gives you a jump start in law school by helping build basic skills and knowledge needed during the first weeks of law school.
  • The Structured Study Group Program, also beginning during First Week, places you in a small law firm-type setting to help you develop collaborative skills in the context of learning the law and learning how to be successful in law school.

Our two-part program is designed to help you develop autonomous, reflective learning skills needed to succeed in law school, on the bar exam and in law practice. Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz is the designer of the program and author of Expert Learning for Law Students and What the Best Law Teachers Do. Professor Schwartz describes the program in more detail below.

Expert Learning at Washburn Law

Expert Learning is a cutting-edge program designed to provide you the tools you need to succeed in law school and on the bar exam. I am writing to describe the two programs that make up Ex-L, the First Week Program and The Structured Study Group Program, and to give you some preliminary suggestions about managing your workload.

In the past few months, you probably have begun wondering what it takes to succeed in law school. Why do some smart people excel in law school and other, equally smart people, struggle? What do the successful law students know that their peers do not?

The answer may surprise you. When you arrive on August 19 to start law school, your undergraduate grade point average and your LSAT score become old news. At that moment, you need to quickly harness or develop the skills necessary for success in law school – the ability to manage the heavy law school workload, the motivation to work hard, and the ability to study and learn law and legal analysis skills effectively and efficiently.

During Washburn's First Week Program and throughout the semester in Washburn's Structured Study Group Program, you will work on building and, hopefully, mastering these skills. Both of these programs have been designed based on a series of educational studies that have found that this approach is the best way to maximize students' chances to succeed in law school.

The moment you arrive on campus the morning of August 19, you will be starting the First Week Program. During this first week, you will be learning about the law school, about legal education, and about the resources available at Washburn to help you maximize your learning.

You will also begin your study of law. However, these initial class sessions will be slightly different than your later class sessions because we will be working with you to help you build the thinking, case reading, case briefing and other skills you will need to succeed in all your first-year law school classes.

On your first day of the First Week Program, you will also start the Structured Study Group Program. You will be placed in a small "law firm" of four or six students. Your firm will be led by a successful, carefully-trained upper division law student whose job is to make sure that your group and all of its members:

  • engage in the behaviors characteristic of successful law school study groups,
  • stay on task,
  • contribute equally to all group work, and
  • collaborate in a way that encourages everyone to succeed in law school.

So the faculty can intervene when necessary, the study group leaders also report to Dean Jalen Lowry throughout the semester about students who are struggling to learn or who are not able to complete their group work.

If you have any questions about law school, the Expert Learning Program, or anything else, please contact Dean Lowry by e-mail at jalen.lowry@washburn.edu.