Saturday, April 14, 2018
The two day summit concluded today, Friday, and covered among other topics declining law school enrollments, increasing student loan debt, the need for curricular reform to better prepare students for the practice of law, the stagnant job market and the "justice gap." In other words, the usual suspects. Law.com filed this report:
Law schools have yet to embrace significant structural change despite years of financial and market pressures, said educators at the Summit on the Future of Legal Education and Entry to the Profession in Miami.
Times are troubled for legal education. That’s the tenor of the conversation among legal education leaders from across the nation who have gathered in Miami this week.
At the Summit on the Future of Legal Education and Entry to the Profession, the first panel discussion on Thursday quickly turned to issues of declining law school enrollment, soaring student debt, a stagnant entry-level job market and the justice gap.
“We’re in a perilous moment,” warned James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement during the first panel of the two-day summit, co-sponsored by Florida International University College of Law and the Law School Admission Council. “There is a push-pull between admission offices and the job market.”
With the law school applicant pool finally growing after an eight-year decline, law schools will be tempted to increase enrollment in the fall, risking the recent modest improvements in the entry-level lawyer job market, Leipold said. He pointed to the fact that the actual number of new lawyer positions has continued to contract. Law school graduate employment numbers have improved only because schools have pumped out fewer new lawyers since 2013, he said.
“[Increasing law school enrollment] would be the wrong thing to do,” Leipold said.
The summit drew leaders from each of the major organizations in the law school sphere, including the NALP; the American Bar Association; the Association of American Law Schools; and the National Conference of Bar Examiners, as well as deans and faculty members from a variety of schools.
Participants disagreed early on about how well law schools have changed to address the mounting pressures bearing down on legal education and the challenges students and graduates face.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of Accreditation and Admission to the Bar, said that despite years of crisis, law schools have yet to undergo deep structural changes.
“We haven’t really had any major reforms. We should have done it yesterday,” Currier said. “We’ve tinkered around the edges of the fundamental challenges of the business model.”
But law schools have changed with the times, countered Wendy Perdue, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law and president of the AALS. “Law schools are doing a lot that they weren’t doing in 1968,” Perdue said, while acknowledging that many of those changes have increased both the quality and cost of a law degree.
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