CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


College of Engineering and Computing


Thomas McFarland

Committee Member

Joseph D. Harbaugh

Committee Member

Marilyn Littman


Law schools are criticized for graduating students who lack the skills necessary to practice law. Legal research is a foundational ability necessary to support lawyering competency. The American Bar Association (ABA) establishes standards for legal education that include a requirement that each law student receive substantial instruction in legal skills, including legal research. Despite the recognized importance of legal research in legal education, there is no consensus of what to teach as part of a legal research course or even how to teach such a course.

Legal educators struggle to address these issues. The practicing bar and judiciary have expressed concerns about law school graduates ability to conduct legal research. Studies have been conducted detailing the poor research ability of law students and their lack of skills. Although deficiencies in law student research skills have been identified, there is no agreement as to how to remediate these deficiencies. This dissertation suggests the legal research resources that should be taught in law schools by identifying the research resources used by practicing attorneys and comparing them to those resources currently included in legal research instruction at the 202 ABA-accredited law schools.

Multiple data sources were used in this study. Practitioner resource information was based on data provided by practicing attorneys responding to the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey. Resources taught in ABA-accredited law schools were identified through three sources: a 2014 law school legal research survey sent to the 202 ABA-accredited law schools, a review of law school syllabi from ABA-accredited law school legal research and legal research and writing courses, and the Association of Legal Writing Directors 2013 annual survey of legal research and writing faculty. The combined data from these three sources were compared to the resources used by practicing lawyers identified in the annual national 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey. This comparison of what is taught with what is used in practice identifies a deficiency in law school instruction in the research resources used by practicing attorneys. These survey results detail distinct areas of inadequate instruction in legal research resources and provide legal educators with detailed information necessary to develop a curriculum that will result in graduating students with practice-ready competencies.