New Law School Association President On The State of Legal Education
The state of legal education is “excellent.”
At least, that’s what the newly appointed president of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) says.
In an exclusive interview with Law.com, Harvard Law School professor Vicki Jackson, who will serve as the association’s 2019 president, discussed her thoughts on the current state of legal education and her goals in the coming year as president ahead of this year’s annual AALS meeting in New Orleans.
The State of Legal Education Today
Jackson says there are two trends that explain why the state of legal education is great today.
For one, she says, law schools have been seeing a recent rise in interest.
“The applicant pool rose something like 8 percent, and enrollment rose something like 3 percent,” Jackson tells Law.com. “These are both, I think, very good figures. Schools are proceeding in a prudent way in responding to that interest.”
According to data released by the Law School Admission Council, 60,401 applicants applied to law schools last fall. Just a year before that, only 55,580 applied.
Jackson also points to the state of innovation, public service, and pro bono work that law schools around the country are partaking in.
“This phenomenon is not limited to any one segment of institutions of legal education in this country,” she tells Law.com. “I see a wealth of innovation and commitment to pro bono work that reflects the immense change that legal education has undergone since I was in law school, which was the mid-1970s.”
The Pillars of Democracy
One theme Jackson has for the coming year is what she calls the “Pillars of Democracy: Law, Representation, and Knowledge.”
It’s an idea that revolves around the central role of lawyers in building and sustaining America’s democracy.
“The three pillars I want to talk about: law, elections and a fair system of representation and what I call ‘knowledge institutions,’ all face an array of challenges,” Jackson tells Law.com. “They all need work from lawyers and law faculty to move forward in a healthy way in the future.”
Part of that is dependent on inspiring the legal academy to become more involved.
“I think an area we—as faculty—should be thinking about both in our scholarship and in teaching our students, is how we think more holistically about the ecology of elections,” she tells Law.com.
Role of the AALS
Jackson says she sees the AALS as having a supportive role in helping member schools achieve excellence in scholarship, teaching, and how their institutions function.
This year’s annual meeting, she says, plays a crucial role in helping member institutions achieve that excellence.
“The annual meeting is a major way of facilitating connections between new scholars, older scholars and scholars working in different fields,” Jackson tells Law.com. “It’s also a way to improve our understanding about teaching and about where our student are. I see the annual meeting as, in a sense, emblematic of our commitment to helping our members do what it is they value doing.”