In the parable of the Delta blues player, the musician considers carefully his choice: to make his pact with the Devil and preserve his guitar greatness or to take the other path. He considers this fateful decision at the crossroads. We are at the crossroads. Our law schools face critical choices: Are we going to continue on the path which, while suitable to the previous world in which we pursued glory and economic progress and our graduates took their rightful place in the generally remunerative legal economy, now has significant pitfalls and predicaments. Or are we going to take the path toward a more promising, albeit risky and uncertain, destination for our students, our faculty, our profession?
As faculty members and law school leaders, we are engaged deeply with questions concerning the efficacy of our current educational and economic model. Some prophesize the demise of this model and, with it, doom and gloom for (many? most? all?) or our member schools; others, for sure, remain ever optimistic. Moreover, we are engaged with complex questions of pedagogical strategy and educational performance. In our teaching, in our scholarship, and in our external engagement with the bench, bar, and business sector, we ask: Are we doing all we can and should to prepare our students for this dynamic new world? Ideally, these questions should be omnipresent parts of our strategies. But, realistically, they have garnered our focused attention in this era in which law schools are under pressure and, in a meaningful way, under siege.
In this difficult climate, there are good reasons to seize opportunities for self-reflection, for innovation, and for significant change in our activities and objectives. The Annual Meeting will provide a forum for novel thinking and fresh perspectives on the state of American legal education. Fruitful ideas will include both the incremental and the profound. We are at the crossroads true; and the choices we make in the coming years will shape powerfully the structure of our profession – not only the academic profession of law teaching, but the profession of law more generally. We welcome all constructive voices; we ask of you your most ambitious imagination.
Daniel B. Rodriguez
AALS President and Dean, Northwestern University School of Law