Tuesday, February 4, 2014
David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Survival Strategies for "Ordinary" Law Schools:
This analysis is focused on approaches and actions that involve “ordinary” American law schools located in the middle range of competition that are not insulated from the worst of the trends. It is important to understand that for those “ordinary” law schools there is no single choice that could be effective in their struggle to adapt to the changing environment. The specific conditions for creating and implementing effective strategies vary depending on the particular law school, and the applicant and employment markets to which the school has access. These are further influenced positively or negatively by reputational and programmatic realities and opportunities, by sources and scope of funding and by the degree of competition with other law schools in the specific markets served by the law school.
Many law schools are entering an era in which their student bodies and faculties must shrink, where job security is reduced, life-tenure is questioned and even terminated, and the level of acceptable productivity takes on a different meaning than showing up twice a week for classes and producing an occasional article every two or three years that is read only by a handful of academics who already agree with the author. As stark as the situation must seem, there are competitive options that many “ordinary” law schools can pursue to enhance their odds of survival.
It is critical to differentiate between the large-scale macro considerations dictating important institutional and structural actions—such as American Bar Association accreditation rules, state Supreme Court governance, bar examination requirements, total potential applicants on a national level, financial costs to law students and the declining earnings potential of lawyers--and the micro-factors impacting on specific law schools. This is because it is in the micro-factors where individual law schools can identify and implement strategies and develop individualized tactics that are within their ability to control. The strategic points raised in the latter part of this brief analysis focus mainly on such factors.