Thursday, May 30, 2013
PrawfsBlawg: Bill Henderson Is Burning Through His Reputational Capital, by Matt Bodie (St. Louis):
As the person who brought the bimodal salary distribution to the legal masses, Bill Henderson has earned a substantial amount of respect from academics, practicing attorneys, and law students. His early warnings about the dire job market and its effect on law schools, students, and recent alums have proven correct. His academic research on the future of law firms, the plight of junior associates, and the use of LSAT scores has moved the ball forward in these areas and has often challenged the conventional wisdom. Henderson is not afraid of being a prophet, even when the people reject the prophecy. ... This year, however, Henderson's tone has begun to change. ...
Henderson has taken a "double-down" strategy to his predictions of institutional collapse. In an op-ed published by the National Law Journal, he argues that massive layoffs would not be nearly enough -- instead, schools need to close. Framing his piece as a "letter" to a hypothetical university president, Henderson essentially argues that law schools have two choices: close or adopt a radical new pedagogical agenda. ...
Henderson, like other reformers ("rebels"), has a strong perspective not only on the problems faced by legal education but also on the proper solutions. His solution to the law school crisis -- one that involves a substantial and largely unexplored change to legal pedagogy -- may be the answer to the field's longer-term problems. But I fear that instead of reporting on the crisis, Henderson is now using it to try to leverage a few shocked university presidents into adopting his methods. In the process of drumming up panic with wild-eyed claims and the specter of closures, Henderson risks squandering a pile of reputational capital that only a few legal academics have managed to achieve in the first place.
The Legal Whiteboard: A Serious Debate over the Problems Facing Law Schools, by Bill Henderson (Indiana):
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio during the 60s, 70s, 80s and witnessed the slowness of the region to accept that its industrial glory days were behind it. All people, including really smart people, have a hard time accepting large-scale institutional change--emotion obscures a reasoned analysis of the facts. This is why Who Moved by Cheese, My Iceberg is Melting, and other change management classics are written as fables. And yes, I see the same slowness to respond within the legal academy. That slowness has costs. ..
Truth be told, I probably did risk some reputational capital writing the "Calculus of University President." But I am deeply worried about the future of legal education, and using the history of other industries as a guide, we are likely to underestimate the realities of the emerging legal landscape. See Richard Susskind, Tomorrow's Lawyers (discusing this future in intricate detail). So why not risk some of my reputational capital? I will make some people, like Matt, angry, but I might spur others to actions sooner rather than later. So be it. The purpose of tenure is to facilitate these judgment calls. I can live with that.