Sunday, October 16, 2016
[by Rick Bales] Law schools have responded to the changing marketplace for legal education in a wide variety of ways designed to add revenue streams or improve the quality of education. Here’s a list of some of those innovations; comments adding to the list are welcome.
- Non-J.D. Master’s programs, especially in subject areas that involve regulatory compliance such as health care. These programs often are mostly or entirely online.
- Online law courses and hybrid-online courses. ABA Standard 306 restricts distance education, but within those restrictions there is plenty of room for online legal education.
- Niche LL.M. programs. LL.M. programs that provide little more than what a student could have obtained in her J.D. degree do not seem to have attracted substantial enrollment, but many niche and value-added programs are performing strongly.
- J.D. programs for international lawyers. These programs typically give credit for previous study and allow the J.D. to be completed in about two years.
- Flexible or alternative course scheduling, such as allowing a J.D. to be completed in two years, or on weekends.
- Classroom and teaching innovations, such as flipped classrooms, new forms of experiential learning, expanded use and varieties of formative assessment, and the like.
- Academic and bar-pass support. Not just more, but better: many AS programs use principles of cognitive psychology to enhance learning, retention, and application. Other AS programs have become integrated into doctrinal, writing, and experiential courses.
- Certificates, concentrations, and guided pathways.
- Unbundling the J.D. “package” and marketing the pieces to target audiences – e.g., “contracts for businesspeople”.
- Teaching law-themed courses for, or in conjunction with, other university programs. Examples include “Intellectual Property Law for Scientists”, “Election Law” for political science students, and creating an undergraduate Legal Studies major or minor.
- Incubators and other programs to help graduates transition from law school to practice. These programs vary from well-designed programs to fairly naked attempts to game placement statistics.
- Third-year curricular changes, such as full-year simulation courses , nontraditional externship programs, and a semester of study and practice in D.C.
- Satellite campuses, especially in a state capital or major metropolitan area if the law school is geographically isolated.
- Using diagnostic tests to identify student strengths and weaknesses (e.g., in reading speed and comprehension) at both individual and aggregate levels, and using online training programs to remedy those weaknesses.
- Using data (beyond simple measures like first-year GPA) to identify at-risk students at both individual and aggregate levels, to calculate the efficacy of curricular and programmatic changes, and to measure educational outcomes.