Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 23, 2016

NY Times:  Law Schools Go Online In Wake Of 'Marked Declines In Enrollment, Revenue And Jobs'

DisruptingNew York Times:  Law Schools Are Going Online to Reach New Students, by Elizabeth Olson:

Law schools, in the face of marked declines in enrollment, revenue and jobs for graduates, are beginning to adopt innovative new ways of delivering legal education.

Some law schools are moving away from relying solely on classic settings and instead are blending classroom learning with online instruction, said Michael B. Horn, a founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a research institution in San Mateo, Calif., that explores disruptive innovation in education.

“Legal education is confronting the most imminent threat in higher education,” Mr. Horn said. “Law schools are increasingly out of step with shifts in the legal services market.”

Law schools that “are able to pioneer online, competency-based programs that focus outside of the traditional J.D. will have a leg up in the struggle to survive,” said Mr. Horn, an author of the newly released report, Disrupting Law School: How Disruptive Innovation Will Revolutionize the Legal World.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in St. Paul; Washington University School of Law, in St. Louis; and Syracuse University College of Law [more here] in New York, all offer programs that fuse some elements of traditional legal education with technology in new educational vehicles. Harvard Law School also offers an online class on copyright law to its on-campus students and to students who can enroll for the free, not-for-credit course from anywhere in the world.

Opportunities to earn a full-fledged law degree online are few, so far. The William Mitchell College of Law began offering a hybrid law degree in January 2015. The school has since merged with Hamline University School of Law. ...

Another way of delivering legal education is through online certificates in specific legal areas. Widener University Delaware Law School, for example, offers a certificate in education compliance, said Rodney A. Smolla, the school’s dean. The school is exploring more distance learning, relying on its own resources for technology and instruction.

“Law schools are about to make that turn,” he said of online offerings. “It’s a blend of being hipper and of economic necessity.” But Mr. Smolla acknowledged that law schools have been slow to try new approaches. “We are a conservative profession,” he said. “We tend to want to teach law in the way we learned it.”

Legal Education | Permalink



Low demand causes excess supply of seats.
Discounting fails to cover the slack.
Schools cannot buy their way out of the problem.
Now must find new markets or shut the doors.
But people online learn about the scam just by googling
"law school", so going online will not work.
Maybe it's time to buy ads on matchbook covers, the
back pages of comic books, crossword magazines, etc.
If the ABA continues to drag its feet, maybe the Department
of Education should do something, like condition law
school loans on an LSAT of at least 150.
That would get the bottom-feeders and for-profits out.

Posted by: Old Ruster from JD Junkyard | Jun 23, 2016 7:37:13 AM

Online courses are depressing. People pay the high price of education for the total experience. The live instruction, the extracurricular educational programs, the interaction with professors, and, most importantly, the communal learning experience and relationships with classmates.

If law schools want to continue to cheapen the experience, they need to cheapen the price.

Posted by: JM | Jun 23, 2016 7:22:12 AM

To paraphrase James Caravelle: The problem is simple stupid: Lack of Work, Clients, fees, jobs and the grotesque oversaturation of attorneys. 1.8 million and multiplying into a shrinking pie or work.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jun 23, 2016 7:09:55 AM

More denial by law school administrators trying desperately to keep their doors open even though they are no longer needed. The ABA should close the 20 worst-performing law schools, not allow them to take advantage of even more ill-informed students by trying to teach them online.

Posted by: Boris P. | Jun 23, 2016 5:42:28 AM

I simply don't believe an online setting delivers the needed interaction in a JD curriculum. Big fan of online LL.M and certificate programs.

Posted by: Tom N. | Jun 23, 2016 4:19:12 AM