Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Law, Legal Education, And Imagining The Future

Michael Madison (Pittsburgh), For a New Year: An Invitation Regarding Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future, Part I:

Modern law schools were invented before modern law practice emerged.

I mean that statement as the first part of an invitation, rather than as the first part of an argument. The invitation, below and in several posts to follow, is to participate in conversations about the future of legal education in ways that integrate rather than distinguish several threads of concern and revision that have emerged over the last decade.

Conversations about the future of legal education necessarily include conversations about the future of law practice, legal services, and law itself. Some of those start with the somewhat stale questions:  What are US law professors doing, what should they be doing, and why? Those questions are still relevant and important, but they are no longer the only relevant questions, and they are not the only places to start. What about other legal educators, meaning those who teach and train in legal services worlds but who don’t teach the professional practice of law or the delivery of traditional legal services? What about those who are involved deeply in the production and distribution of law, legal services, and legal information but who are not, themselves, lawyers? Why start with current teachers; why not start with current or future students, or current or future clients, or current or future institutions, or current or future sets of values? Expand the communities of interest and identities of potential participants not only beyond elite US law schools, and not only beyond the private law firms that constitute BigLaw, but also beyond the US and beyond North America.

The invitation goes out, in short, to a much broader audience than US law professors, and it is framed in broad but pragmatic terms. By design, it is an invitation to action, rather than an invitation to more scholarly or research-oriented dialogue.  I am sending it out on my own in the hope that there are other people out there who, like me, have been chipping away at legal education innovation in small parts for a long time, anticipating – or just speculating – that small contributions might scale or build toward a more substantial new form and vision of law and legal education.  That hasn’t happened.  Yet.  My hope is that a group of people with similar tendencies to speculate might self-organize around shared interests.

This post consists largely of setting out some premises and background. Four posts to come advance the agenda. The theme is change, and how to move beyond local reforms to the possibility of larger-scale rethinking. Is it possible to reconceptualize an entirely new system of legal education, or set of systems, and then to set about enacting it? Why would one do that? What would the results look like? What would the process consist of? ...

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