Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Golden Age of American legal education is dead.
Every law dean knows it, but only some of them will feel it. Elite schools (the top 25 in U.S. News & World Report's rankings) and the 43 non-elite state "flagship" law schools are almost immune to market pressures. Those at risk will come from the other 132 law schools — the ones that produce the majority of law graduates. ...
Law schools in crisis must become student-centric. Faculties are mainly interested in curriculum, publication and their teaching schedule. Presidents are focused on revenue. Deans, selected by these two groups, normally share these priorities. The things that matter to students — admissions, career services, tuition and budget, bar passage, transparency and teaching quality — are frequently ignored or delegated to staff. This paradigm, derived from the elite/flagships, will no longer work for the schools facing a radically different market. Their deans must have CEO skills informed by academic values and be actively championing student priorities. ...
Deans must also insist on personal service, transparency and the finest classroom experience possible. Students are more likely to believe law school is worth the long-term investment when their school cares about them and is trying to address their concerns. In my experience, with use of this formula at two non-elite/flagship law schools, all the metrics of law school success, in matters as diverse as U.S. News ranking and faculty publication, improved. I therefore know that student-centered administrations can navigate schools through crisis and change.
A school's positive results will disappear if student values are subordinated. Both of my deanships essentially ended when "enough" improvements had been made to justify prioritizing revenue or faculty over student interests. The prior gains at my first school were lost in a few years. My second deanship recently ended in a well-publicized dispute over diverting an increasing percentage of law revenue to non-law university concerns.
The dean, faculty, staff and president must be committed to addressing the quality issues inherent in student concerns. It's the only way to save a law school in crisis.
Paul Campos (Colorado), Just Say No Jobs:
Closius' heart is in the right place, and at least his head acknowledges there really is a crisis, but unfortunately the piece is a tangle of bad data and wishful thinking. ... Closius does make some good points about the extent to which law school faculty, deans and university presidents busy themselves with counting law review articles, marginal curricular tweaking, and raising tuition like clockwork rather than paying attention to how much all this costs and whether it's actually worth it to our students, but his suggested reforms are an exercise in denial:
In today's depressed environment, resumes must be reviewed, mock interviews mandated and realistic job searches ensured. Not every alumnus can donate $1 million, but all can help a student get an internship or job. The dean, faculty and staff must also visit potential employers.
I'm sure Closius doesn't mean it this way -- unlike most legal academics he actually seems to have a clue regarding the extent to which our students are facing a genuine disaster -- but his response comes across as essentially victim-blaming: Graduates aren't getting jobs because their resumes aren't sufficiently well-crafted and they don't interview as well as they could.
This is sheer nonsense on its face, as is the stuff about deans, faculty, and staff visiting potential employers. ... There are twice as many graduates (at least) as there are jobs. The most better-drafted resumes and successful sales pitches from law faculty to legal employers will accomplish is to very slightly improve the catastrophic employment rate of our current students at the expense of our alumni.
Can't anybody in this business do basic arithmetic?
- Legal Skills Prof Blog, Former Dean Closius on Student-Centered Law Schools
- WSJ Law Blog, Ex-Dean: Save Law Schools by Focusing on Student Needs