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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Legal Ed's Futures: No. 54 (Robert Ahdieh)

The Golden Age of Legal Education

In my opening post, I highlighted my optimism about the future of legal education.  As I have read and learned from the posts that have constituted this virtual symposium, that optimism has only grown.  We can make legal education work – in ways that are financially viable, socially responsible, and encouraging of humanity’s social, economic, and political progress.

In that spirit, let me conclude with a further word on the reasons for my optimism.

In an earlier post, I spoke of the increasing complexity of our collective social, economic, and political life – not only in the United States, but throughout the world.  Given that growing complexity, I would suggest, it is not only reasonable, but quite likely, that we will see growing demand both for lawyers and for legally trained non-lawyers (as described in that earlier post) in the years ahead. 

That demand begins with the increasing reach – as well as complexity – of law and regulation that follows (almost) inevitably from growing social, economic, and political complexity generally.  As the scope of applicable regulatory constraint across a variety of different industries, sectors, and spheres of activity increases, the need for capable lawyers must necessarily increase as well.

The same is true, I believe, of non-lawyer professionals.  With more regulation comes a concomitant need for a wider universe of such professionals to have at least some working knowledge of the substance of relevant law and regulation.  And that group, I would suggest, is not likely to be a small one.  To the contrary, it might well dwarf the size of the law student population today.

But the relevance of legal education to non-lawyer professionals in the coming years goes even beyond the substance of laws and regulations applicable to their fields of practice.  Rather, in the face of increasing complexity, it extends to the very heart of what we have traditionally been thought to teach: how to think like a lawyer.

Non-lawyer professionals will not, of course, practice law.  But the heart of thinking like a lawyer – perhaps too well-known to every family member of every lawyer in history – is a particularly systematic and refined approach to complex problem-solving.  And in an increasingly complex world, interest in such problem-solving skills can only be expected to grow.  And not just among lawyers, but among professionals of all stripes.

The coming years, then, hold the promise of a great flourishing of legal education – as lawyers have occasion to play an increasingly critical role in engaging the social, economic, and political travails of humanity.  And likewise, as the demand for training in both the substance and skills of law and “legal” reasoning grows.

Of course, not every law school is likely to seize such opportunities.  The coming years may not, as such, be a Golden Age for every law school. 

The can be a Golden Age for legal education generally, however, and particularly for those schools that embrace innovation, that recognize the role of specialization, and that engage in meaningful efforts at differentiation.  For those of us willing to learn from the insights of scholars, teachers, and practitioners such as those who have participated in this symposium, thus, I believe the future is bright.

In closing, my thanks to Mike for his always engaging provocations, to Dan for the invitation to join the symposium, and to all the symposium’s participants for their fascinating contributions – from which I have learned so very much. 

I am confident that dialogues such as these hold the promise of developing newer, better, and more consequential models of legal education in the coming years.  I look very much forward to the conversation!

Robert Ahdieh (Emory)

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on April 7, 2018 at 10:39 AM | Permalink


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