Daniel B. Rodriguez (Dean, Northwestern), Changing Law Schools:
Last fall, 203 ABA accredited law schools opened their doors to a new class of would-be lawyers. Next month, that number will drop to 202, as Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California announced in April that it would shut down, making it the first fully accredited law school to do so in three decades. Whittier’s closing was a blow to the legal academy, and of course to the esteemed alumni from this established law school. When coupled with news of decreasing law school applications across the board, declining LSAT scores, and state bar passage rates at an all-time low, it put the finishing touches on the “law school train wreck” story that reporters have been reveling in for years.
But the resulting debate — law schools are failing! No, everything’s fine! — buries the truly important question: How can law schools, the very institutions that teach a discipline reliant on precedent, tradition, and entrenched rules become dynamic and innovative change-makers? And I don’t just mean throwing “innovation” in the title of a course or an academic center. How can we convince top students that if you want to change the world — be it through social justice or disruptive technology — you need to start with a legal education?
To start, let’s talk about those “top” students: Data released in June by the Law School Admission Council found that while the number of applicants to law school for the 2017-2018 school year dropped by only 0.5 percent, the number of applicants who scored [160 or more] on the LSAT has decreased  percent since 2010, as Paul Caron, Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law, wrote on his TaxProf Blog. These are the students with credentials who would likely be admitted to top law schools, perhaps even with merit scholarships. ...
[I]t is clear that law schools have an image problem. And before we can even attempt to change our image, we need to change our ways. Schools must integrate technology, business and entrepreneurship into their core curricula, and we need to think about developing legal minds without insisting they have a JD. The law schools of the future will be welcoming accountants and scientists and engineers to study law while they are training for non-law careers.