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Friday, May 01, 2015

Anniversary symposium: What's next?

During the time I was dithering and wool-gathering in response to the call from Howard for the third round of anniversary posts -- topic:  what has changed in law teaching and for law schools -- the subject for the next round was announced:  What about the future?  

Will a lot of law schools close?  (Will a bunch of new online or other alternative legal-education institutions open?)  Will tuition and debt loads continue to increase?  Will the yearly number of law graduates come (roughly) into line with the yearly number of legal and "J.D.-advantage" jobs?  Will law schools' programs of legal education change dramatically (e.g., move to two years, or incorporate significant new experiential-learning requirements, or . . .)?  Will the expectations and practices of legal academics regarding teaching loads and scholarship evolve significantly?  Will law schools -- as a result of the answer to the last question -- be nudged out from the heart of research universities' academic missions?  Will we see more law-school deans and high-level administrators coming from law practice or the business sector (instead of from law faculties)?  Each of these seems like an important question and, with respect to each, I have to confess that I just don't know.

My hopes are that "the law" will (continue to?) be regarded as, respected as, and in fact a "learned profession" that is meaningfully connected to public service and social goods; that engaged and committed students will pursue legal education because they are attracted to a vocation in such a profession; that access to this profession will be available (which means, among other things, "realistically affordable") to a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse interests; that law schools' programs and law professors' activities (teaching, scholarship, and service) will be consistent with and supportive of this way of thinking about what "the law" is; and that at least some excellent law schools will remain fully integrated with excellent research universities.  I have a strong sense that, in order for these hopes to be realized in the coming years, more than a few non-trivial changes are needed, and needed pretty soon.  (And, of course, whether these hopes can be realized is not entirely within the control of law schools.)  But, again, I wish I had more confidence that I knew exactly what those changes are.

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 1, 2015 at 10:51 AM in Rick Garnett | Permalink


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