Megan M. Carpenter (Dean, New Hampshire), Legal Education Unbundled (and Rebundled), 50 U. Tol. L. Rev. 265 (2019):
Abstract: This essay calls for an unbundling of legal education, much like the kind of unbundling we have seen in the cable, music, and print news media. It suggests that the standard legal education “bundle” — the generalized JD — is just one of many forms of legal education that can be packaged appropriately for today’s legal education market needs.
For 150 years, law schools and the legal services industry have combined to make legal education a precious commodity, separated from the rest of higher education and packaged, or bundled, in a very specific way. By not responding to market needs and technological developments, we have isolated the construction, interpretation, and operation of law away from many of its subjects and objects. And we have done so at our peril. Technology has led to disruption in the legal services industry and facilitated a growing (and healthy) market for legal professionals outside the JD.
People who need to know something about the law are everywhere — especially in a knowledge economy. Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to democratize legal education, to embrace a definition that is various and responsive to market change. Law schools should not be afraid of this. Lawyers should not be afraid of this. The legal services industry is being disrupted whether we like it or not. As leaders in legal education, we should consider who needs knowledge about law and figure out how to leverage our strengths individually and collectively to provide it.
Conclusion: In the past, the dominance and relative success of the traditional model of legal education stifled innovation that might otherwise have occurred naturally. Higher education has never been quick to innovate, and in law schools, we are ahead of the curve in witnessing the decline of old ways of doing things. A changing legal services industry demands an evolution in education and training. And for many law schools, the old way of doing things, frankly, does not present a sustainable business model. We must not stay put and hope that the market rightsizes itself—that applications will rise while some law schools close, and things return to normal. There is an enormous opportunity for law schools to train students in a legal services industry that looks very different than it once did. And we must respond to the challenge. The world will be operating as subjects and objects of legal principles (and, increasingly, doing law-related work) whether we are a part of it or not. Let’s lead the charge.