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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Legal Ed's Futures: No. 6

As Michael “imagin[es] the future” of legal education, he does a great job imaging varying paths that the future might take.  I want to suggest that, in every case Michael presents, the most likely future path is the most pessimistic one. 

Law school culture is very strong.  As Michael notes, we basically still reside in the institution created by Langdell a century and a half ago.  That kind of institutional stability only happens when a strong institutional culture exists.  Now, as Michael also (correctly) notes, we live in a time when the necessity for change is “urgent.”  Who are the people who are going to act urgently to bring about this change?  Could it be the very same people who are the products of a strong culture of conformity and statis?  The possibility is extremely remote, and we would recognize it as such in almost any other context. 

In my view, law schools are unlikely to be up to the challenge of effecting necessary change absent a deliberate choice to hire people who provide some strong indication that they both disagree with mayor aspects of law school culture and appear willing to do something about it.  As they say in Washington, D.C. “personnel is policy.” I concede that my remedy is an unnatural one, for organizational cultures exist in order to replicate themselves.  The prevailing law school culture today highly favors the same qualifications it did twenty years ago, and thirty years ago, and forty years ago, and on and on (law review membership, prestigious clerkship, highly ranked law school and high class rank).  But persons with these qualifications are the very people who are most likely to find comfort in the existing system – after all, the existing system was made by and for people just like them.  Go ahead and hire Supreme Court clerks if you like, but only those willing to be, so to speak, “traitors to their class.”  Otherwise, find some less credentialed “rebels” instead.  If we really believe change is urgent, we have no other choice.  Only “traitors” and “rebels” will provide the ideas and energy needed to act urgently to overcome the inertia of the prevailing law school culture

Michele Pistone (Villanova)

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on March 7, 2018 at 08:57 AM in 2018 Symposium: Future of Legal Ed | Permalink


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