For law schools, 2013 was a bit like 2008 for Wall Street.
Though getting a J.D. was once the beginning of a path to respectability and financial comfort, last year, many people–often law school graduates–called law schools out for leaving them jobless and deeply in debt. Countless articles questioned the viability (or morality) of law schools’ business models. With enrollment numbers looking grim, several schools began cutting incoming classes, tuition, and even faculties.
But it’s 2014 now. Perhaps a New Year is a semi-arbitrary marker of time, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect and make serious changes. To take a peek at what law schools have in store, we asked a trio of forward-looking deans to make three law school-related predictions for 2014. Their predictions are mostly optimistic–as one would suspect–and they tackle everything from curriculum reform to merit scholarships.
Emory Law School Dean Robert Schapiro
1. Dramatic growth in degree programs for non-lawyers, such as our Juris Master program.
2. Employer-law school partnerships that reflect some of the qualities of medical residency programs.
3. Increased focus on interdisciplinary and experiential opportunities, especially outside of the traditional concentration on litigation, as in our intellectual property partnership with Georgia Tech and our transactional law program.
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard
1. Ten years from now, people will look back at 2014 and say it marked the start of the new world of law, a renaissance where the respect and reputation of lawyers and law schools began to rise by measurable benchmarks (polls will show lawyers’ and law school popularity rising–not as fast as Pope Francis, but better than Congress). With apologies to Churchill, after several dark years, 2014 will not be the end, nor the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning. It will take time, but 2014 will eventually be seen as the start of the “up” market for law.
2. For the first time in years, there will not be a double digit decline in the number of LSAT test takers and applicants, because it will become apparent that it is a great time to go to law schools that have strengthened their programs, and that there is actually a growing shortfall of good new lawyers in many expanding new fields where a JD is critically useful.
3. Law schools will finally begin to attack their irrational and inequitable business models by taking on the heretofore unmentioned elephant in the room: the huge amounts spent on merit scholarships, which drive up tuition paid by students who do not receive the scholarships. Expect this conversation to mount.
UC Hastings Dean Frank H. Wu
1. Great innovation in curriculum.
2. Leveling off of the applicant pool.
3. Many dean searches.
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