Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2022




Association of American Law Schools




As one of two companion papers, this article explains our efforts to create and evaluate a program called JD-Next, which exposed students to legal education, prepared them to succeed, and assessed their ability to do so. JD-Next is a fully online, noncredit, seven-and-a-half-week course to train potential JD students in case reading and analysis skills before their first year of law school. This article focuses on rigorously testing the exposure and preparation functions of this program in 2019 to determine whether participation in such a course can improve law school confidence and performance of matriculating students. In the companion article, we test whether the exam at the end of the JD-Next course is a valid and reliable predictor of law school performance.

We recruited a national sample of potential JD students, enriched for racial/ ethnic diversity so that less than half of the students identified as White non-Hispanic, and randomized them to the course or an active placebo control group (where participants watched legal television shows). We also recruited a sample of volunteers at one university who self-selected into the course and who were matched to non-participants, using university archival data.

We found that participating in the JD-Next course is associated with substantial improvement in grades for the targeted iL course (Contracts) and overall first semester iL GPA. We also report substantial student confidence gains and satisfaction with the course, in qualitative and quantitative terms, based on a survey at three points in time (pre-course, post-course, and post-semester). In a companion article, we report on the validity and reliability of the JD-Next exam for use in law school admissions.'

As background, we first review the literature around underrepresentation in JD programs and the role of bridge programs to help address the problem. We then lay out our methods in Part II, including both the program design and the research approach. We share our results in Part III, identify strengths and limitations of the study in Part IV, and discuss the implications in Part V. An appendix provides methodological details.

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