TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Madison: Legal Education: A Vision for the Future

Michael Madison (Pittsburgh):

The original vision framed a small, integrated 3-year law school program that made some substantial changes to the way things are done today. The JD degree would be a two-year program, but sitting for the bar would require a JD plus substantial “experiential” training, perhaps in a law school, perhaps elsewhere. The two-year program would be restructured. The first year would focus in part on “content,” though in interdisciplinary blends rather than in Langdellian silos, and in part on tracks focused on personal/professional development, on technology and design, and on business, organizations, and management. Layered throughout would be heavy emphasis on communications skills, particularly writing. The second year would consist of a series of elective courses organized thematically — international issues, criminal justice issues, innovation and entrepreneurship issues, law and power issues, urban policy issues, etc. etc. Each “course” would be an experiential/classroom blend, with extensive use of simulations and role-playing and live-party interactions and a continuation of the focus on writing and communications skills. A post-JD year — required for bar admission — would feature clinics, labs, incubators, internships, practicums, and so on. The post-JD year would also include modules or tracks devoted to scholarship and training future faculty, leading to whatever extra degree or certification were required for admission to the professoriate. For them, a post-JD year might run into more than one year.

I’d hire only faculty who would both teach and write “across the curriculum.” There would be no faculty devoted only to legal writing or to clinics or to so-called “doctrinal” or “classroom” instruction. All scholars would teach; all teachers would write. (Not specified in the original post: Practitioners, judges, and others, as part-time adjunct faculty, would co-teach in partnership with full-time faculty.) It’s a high-cost “boutique” model that would have to be subsidized to a substantial degree by an endowment.*

Here is version 2.0: We could unbundle legal education. Why do all of the functions of a law school, even a law school of the future, need to be provided in a single institution, by a single group of faculty?

What follows is much less prescriptive than version 1.0. Version 1.0 was (is) a first draft of what I would like legal education to be. Version 2.0 is closer to what I think is, in fact, coming. ... If my Version 1.0 of the future of legal education is a high-priced fantasy — my own upscale, romanticized version of how I would spend a lot of money — then my Version 2.0 is closer to the low-priced version of what I think will actually emerge, over some unknown period of years.

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