First year failures at the Law School last year were the lowest in decades, the Dean's Office reported yesterday. Only 38 men out of 528--representing 7.2% of the class--did not pass their finals; the previous year 44 men (8.3%) failed.
The number of unsatisfactory records at the school had been going down steadily in recent years. Many member of the faculty have credited modernization of the curriculum with this improvement. Significant among the changes was the addition last year of the group work program for first year men.
Under it, sections of about 18 men meet weekly with one of six teaching fellows. Additional work is done there within the framework of the week's regular lectures.
At the beginning of the year the sections study the conduct of a trial--first from the plaintiff's side and then from the defendant's. Finally the first year men see a mock trial of the case before a jury.
Degree of Homicide
During the year, sections are asked to decide what degree of homicide a district attorney should ask for in a case. Sections also work at improving the drafting of legal documents.
At mid-years, practice examinations are given to the first students. The teaching fellows grade the tests and discuss the results with their men.
Professor David F. Cavers, who is supervising the program in association with a committee headed by Professor Warren A. Seavey '02, yesterday termed its first year as "a very promising beginning." "One of its achievements is to reduce the impersonality that has characterized the Law School previously," Cavers said.
Besides giving students a "better understanding of the legal processes they are studying," Cavers added that the program gives direction to men who otherwise might get off to a bad start at the school.
Cavers commented that the Harvard program was unique. Columbia has tried to help its students with a straight review program, he said, and the University of Chicago has instituted an individual writing project for its first year law students which a number of other schools have followed.
Two of last year's teaching fellows are now working at other law schools helping to develop programs like Harvard's Cavers noted.
The of last year's teaching fellows are now working at other law schools helping to develop programs like Harvard's Cavers noted.
"The trend away from impersonal instruction is not confined to the first year," Cavers said. "Close to 30 seminars are now in the third year curriculum."