Thursday, January 24, 2013

Henderson: Crisis in Law Schools is a Labor Market Issue

HendersonBill Henderson (Indiana-Bloomington) has just posted on SSRN his article (forthcoming Pepperdine L. Rev.) A Blueprint for Change.  Here's the abstract: 

This Article discusses the financial viability of law schools in the face of massive structural changes now occurring within the legal industry. It then offers a blueprint for change – a realistic way for law schools to retool themselves in an attempt to provide our students with high quality professional employment in a rapidly changing world. Because no institution can instantaneously reinvent itself, a key element of my proposal is the “12% solution.” Approximately 12% of faculty members take the lead on building a competency-based curriculum that is designed to accelerate the development of valuable skills and behaviors prized by both legal and nonlegal employers. For a variety of practical reasons, successful implementation of the blueprint requires law schools to band together in consortia. The goal of these initiatives needs to be the creation and implementation of a world-class professional education in which our graduates consistently and measurably outperform graduates from traditional J.D. programs.

One of Bill's critical arguments is that the law school crisis is largely a labor market issue: too few law school graduates chasing too few jobs and a mismatch between the skill sets legal employers need and the skill sets that law schools provide. 

[T]he financial viability of law schools depends upon three interrelated factors: (a) students wishing to enroll, (b) an ability to pay, and (c) professional employment upon graduation.  Of these factors, the professional employment is the most important because, if present, the first two factors will take care of themselves....  If an educational program can produce a measurable value-add that another school cannot reliably produce, employers will seek out the gradutes of such a program; students will seek out admission; and alumni will want to contribute time and money toward its construction and improvement.

If you plan to be involved in legal education for more than the next 3-5 years, I would highly recommend reading this article.


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