Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Former Dean Gene R. Nichol On Legal Education

Gene R. Nichol has posted an insightful article on SSRN on legal education entitled Rankings, Economic Challenge, and the Future of Legal Education.  He writes,

"I believe, given the economics, that we are in for more than a modest dose of change in legal education—public and private, national and regional, elite and virtuously middle-tier. I also think that we are not as well positioned as we should be to deal with the unfolding challenge. We have gone far, in the last twenty-five years or so, toward breaking the bank, pushing costs beyond both call and sustainability. I doubt that we have done so to good end, that we have made optimum investments. I am quite sure that we have failed to bolster a mission in the common good. Now that our options are constricting, these choices may come back to bite us. They may have bitten a lot of our fellows already."

"I am fearful that we have pushed to the edge economically, past sustainable standards, towards breaking the budget, without dramatically improving, or perhaps even paying close attention to, the actual learning experience of our students. I hope we haven’t weakened that experience but I don’t think we’ve marched over the hill to lift it up either."

"So I am worried that we have exploded an economic model, or cracked it, without dramatically improving legal education in the process. We have undoubtedly made life better for ourselves. We’ve managed, broadly speaking, to assure the highest faculty salary levels, or at least among the very highest, in the academy. Our research support, leave policies, and teaching loads have become extraordinarily, and unnecessarily generous."

"So I am worried that we have exploded an economic model, or cracked it, without dramatically improving legal education in the process. We have undoubtedly made life better for ourselves. We’ve managed, broadly speaking, to assure the highest faculty salary levels, or at least among the very highest, in the academy. Our research support, leave policies, and teaching loads have become extraordinarily, and unnecessarily generous.  We have, in short, made certain that legal education works powerfully for us."

"My hope is, as we necessarily adjust to the changes coming over the next decade, that we will focus far more meaningfully, pointedly, and successfully, on the actual experiences of our students. We must remind ourselves that our institutions are essential components in an essential system of justice. Access to the legal profession has, historically, been a powerful democratizing influence on the corridors of power and persuasion in the United States. The last thing any of us ever went into this line of work to accomplish was to merely replicate and fortify privilege—whether that privilege belongs to our most economically-blessed students, or to us."

(Scott Fruehwald)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2012/03/former-dean-gene-r-nichol-on-legal-education.html

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