Paul L. Caron

Thursday, April 14, 2011

HLS & NYLS Host Conference on New Business Models for Legal Education


Harvard and New York Law School host their third two-day conference beginning today on Future Ed: New Business Models for U.S. and Global Legal Education (program; speakers):

Got an idea about the future of U.S. legal education? Think it’s time to go clinical? Or global? Or virtual? Should law be combined with other fields of study at the graduate or undergraduate level?

There is no shortage of commentary about the challenges facing American law schools. Driven by the Carnegie Foundation’s highly critical 2007 report and the dramatic downturn in large firm associate hiring, law school deans and administrators are scrambling to predict the future and position themselves within a rapidly changing market. But what is the likely shape of the future market—or markets—for legal education? What are the most promising models for delivering education and training in those markets? And how do we get there from here?

Future Ed is a year-long contest of ideas for innovation in legal education, focusing on ways to improve quality while reducing cost. Cosponsored by Harvard Law School and New York Law School, the project has brought together educators, lawyers, clients, regulators, and legal entrepreneurs to design and test potential innovations in the law school curriculum, teaching methods, and the use of technology. Thirty proposals were presented at Harvard Law School in October, 2010 and the best will be refined and presented at New York Law School on April 15 and 16

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Just look at NYU's Executive LL.M. (tax) Program and you have your answer, in part. You don't have to go to NYC and pay ridiculously high rent. You can stay at home, with you're family even. You can keep your and take course at times convenient for you instead of fixed evening schedules. You can take the courses in the order you like rather than what happens to be offered that semester. You take an exam and you get a degree. Hard to imagine distance learning better than NYU's, other than lowering the price of tuition. The argument for lower tuition for the Executive LL.M. is valid in as much as you are watching a video of one class of a course. You do not have the opportunity to raise your hand during class to ask a question or speak to the professor after that class. There is some value in these things that are lost to the distance learner. The lost value should translate into a lower cost for the degree. Additionally, once a course has been taped and is being used over and over again, their is no justification to the Executive LL.M. for paying the professor to remain part of the faculty. Whether adjunct or tenure track, the Executive LL.M. should not have to bear the cost of the school's continuing payments to the faculty. Course prices should be charged relative to how settled the law is. In well settled subjects, the course price should be lower as 1 video will stand up for a long time whereas in subjects in flux it seems reasonable to charge the full price as the material would need to be updated every year.

As technology continues to improve, I wonder how long the brick and mortar university system will remain viable. If universities look to other business models, say bookstores and books, they can see that brick and mortar stores are vanishing (B. Daltons closed, Borders in bankruptcy) and being replaced by online stores (Amazon). Books to are disappearing in favor of downloads (and there are tons of different hardware that you can use to read a book). This same thing also happened to the record industry--excuse me, music industry (i show my age, who out there knows what a record is?)--with brick and mortar and tangible delivery replaced by the internet stores and downloads. It is only a matter of time for universities to suffer the same fate lest they offer something that the internet and technology cannot.

Posted by: tax guy | Apr 15, 2011 6:01:02 AM