The future of American law school

This new Subject Area contains my contributions to the ongoing debate about the future of the American law school. I entered this debate because I was intrigued by the view of some that what appears to me to be largely a cyclical problem was being viewed as a secular problem. Further, it seemed to me that there was little that law schools could have done to help prospective students avoid the impact of the black swan event that the 2008 crisis represented.

And, finally, it seemed to me that there is very little relationship between what happens inside a university and what happens in the wider labor markets. Certainly a single law school can make changes to its cost structure or substantive curriculum that seem more responsive to changing needs of the field of legal practice, but that only means that law school will be a more effective competitor (assuming no other law school makes the same changes – a fanciful assumption) but it won’t create any new jobs.

The lack of these correlations, however, has not stopped many from concluding that the underemployment and unemployment facing many recent law school graduates was the fault of law schools. That view has, unfortunately, obscured and distorted what should be a constructive discussion of ongoing improvement in the functioning of law schools. That kind of discussion happens inside law schools with much greater frequency, depth and concern than is apparently understood by many participants in the current debate. So the “Future of American law schools” is aimed at making my own, limited public contribution to this discussion.