Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Uncertain Restructuring of American Legal Education

Law Deans posted an entry by Dean Frank Wu that sums up the issues with legal education pretty well.

Dean Wu notes that "[l]egal education does not suffer from a problem. It suffers from multiple problems."

"First, there is a glut of lawyers on the market. There are simply too many people out there who hold JDs and wish to work as lawyers. (There is the irony of a lack of lawyers available to represent ordinary people.)"

"Second, legal education costs too much."

"Third, the skills that are imparted through the traditional program of training are not suited to the demands of employers, and, ultimately, clients."

All of the issues that Dean Wu points out are true, and the legal academe is currently at a bit of a loss as to how to fix these problems because of the inherent conflict in the goals. For example, "[t]he possibility of a shortened curriculum, meant to address the second problem (high cost), would worsen the third problem (inadequate skills)."

Dean Wu goes on to mention something more profound that is taking shape. Something that none of us can afford to ignore. "In the background, there is a problem bigger than all of the ones mentioned above. We are living through a period of profound economic restructuring in general. It isn’t merely the pervasive effects of globalization and the speed of technological advance; it’s the constancy of change and the volatility of society. Almost all of us are unsettled by uncertainty, even if we would like to be avant-garde. For those of us who have felt assured of the American Dream, it is about as demoralizing as it could be to realize that our reasonable expectations might not be matched by economic realities — never mind unreasonable expectations that are held dear. The only hope, for institutions as well as individuals, is to adapt. That has always been true. It hasn’t always been acknowledged. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds; that is yet to come."

Law schools and their law libraries need to continue to adapt and change in the current climate to make our graduates ready for the future legal market that they face.

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