Law Schools Are In A Death Spiral. Maybe Now They’ll Finally Change.
Professor Dorothy Brown of Emory University School of Law has one message for those involved in legal education: “Law schools are in trouble, but not in a way that the U.S. News rankings can signal.”
According to Brown, no law schools have figured out a sustainable way to adapt and survive in the new normal of legal education. That normal is dropping applicants for law school and a near-abysmal job market. Brown predicts the top one percent of law schools will thrive and the rest will not.
Some other issues Brown cites are bidding wars between schools for the students with the best undergraduate GPAs and highest LSAT scores. Also, she points out that students with already lower socioeconomic status tend to do worse on the LSAT, putting them in a position to pay more for tuition and take on more debt.
On the job front, Brown mentions firms are increasingly outsourcing work and using different technologies for work that lawyers used to do such as using computer program to search large legal documents instead of a lawyer doing the searching. Simply put, firms are getting by with much less.
Unlike law firms, which can stay afloat with fewer people doing more, law schools cannot minimize according to Brown. The majority of faculty at law schools have been tenured. They are in it for the long haul. Finally, Brown points out the disconnect between what the market is demanding of law school graduates and what schools are producing. That is, practitioners are looking for more practice-ready graduates even though law schools reward professor for their published work. In other words, too much time is being focused on publishing rather than preparing students for the profession.
Brown proposes law schools adopt a similar style for research and publishing as other schools. This would require law schools to cut the costs of summer research for faculty and outsource the responsibility for raising outside funds for summer research to the faculty.
Regardless, Brown closes with this bold and scary prediction: “My 20 years as a legal academic causes me to predict that no serious change will occur until a cataclysmic event occurs. My prediction: In three years, a top law school will close. Then watch how quickly things change.”
Source: Washington Post
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