Friday, August 22, 2014

A Study of Law School Innovation

Analyzing Carnegie's Reach: The Contingent Nature of Innovation by Stephen Daniels, William M. Sullivan, and Martin Katz.


"Our interest is curricular innovation, with a focus on the recommendations of the 2007 Carnegie report–Educating Lawyers. Recognizing that meaningful reform requires an institutional commitment, our interest also includes initiatives in the areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure that would support curricular innovation. Additionally, we are curious as to what might explain change and whether certain school characteristics will do so or whether external factors that challenge legal education offer an explanation. To explore these issues we surveyed law schools (a 60.5% response rate). The results show that while there is much activity in the area of curriculum–including the key matters of lawyering, professionalism, and especially integration–there is much less in the important areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure. School characteristics, including rank, do not provide a sufficient explanation for the patterns emerging from the survey’s results. Additionally, activity by law schools with regard to curriculum, faculty development, and faculty professional activity is not simply a response to external challenges either. However, it appears that those pressures are providing a potential window of opportunity for innovation, reinforcing the need for change, and accelerating its pace."
This study, by three leaders of law education reform, begins by questioning whether innovation in legal education is possible.  " Change may indeed be needed, but the complexities involved in bringing about large-scale change in legal education–or any long-standing institution--counsel against making bold claims or predictions in favor (or not) of any particular change."  They add, "Unfortunately, the history of legal education suggests that inertia often wins out."
They believe that curricular changes are not enough, that "There must be a significant institutional investment innovation. Among other things, this means a commitment to faculty development--investing in a school’s human capital. Related, and perhaps even more important, is a commitment to developing appropriate incentive structures for faculty that recognize and encourage professional activity that supports innovation. We are interested not only in the curricular innovations that may have been initiated, but also in whether there have been concomitant investments in faculty development and changes in incentive structures."
The authors declare, "A key question, then, is whether the recent changes in the external environment have provided such a window for the kinds of recommendations found in Educating Lawyers. In other words, have external forces undermined–at least to a degree--the inertia on which much of Tamanaha’s critique is built? As we explain in the next section, the survey we conducted was designed with this in mind."
The authors studied the following areas of law school innovation (by sending out a survey to 195 law schools, 118 of which responded): curriculum, faculty development, and incentives for faculty professional activities.
The study showed that "For our primary interest–curricular matters--we found evidence of much activity over the period of our study."  However, "While there is much activity in the area of curriculum–including the key matters of lawyering, professionalism, and especially integration–there is much less in the important areas of faculty development and incentive structure." "Not all respondents report launching a new initiative since 2001 in the broad area of faculty development, but most do." Most importantly, "There is less activity when we look at initiatives involving the incentive structure for faculty."
The authors concluded, " To be successful and become fully institutionalized, innovation also requires a commitment to faculty development and to creating and using appropriate incentive structures for faculty. It is about putting your money where your mouth is."  "Without an
institutional commitment in these areas as well meaningful change is not likely. With this said,
the discussion in section VI provides reason for hope. It shows that for at least a small proportion
of respondents, there is evidence of the kind of coordinated activity needed across these three
broad areas."

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