Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A New Growth Vision For Legal Education, Part I: Sustainable Growth Or Dead Cat Bounce?

Hilary G. Escajeda (Denver), Legal Education: A New Growth Vision Part I – The Issue: Sustainable Growth or Dead Cat Bounce? A Strategic Inflection Point Analysis, 97 Neb. L. Rev. 628 (2019):

Legal education programs now face strategic inflection points. To survive and thrive long-term, education programs must embrace entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, platforms, and customer service as the means by which to navigate through strategic inflection points. Imagination, adaptability, agility, determination, and speed will separate market leaders from laggards. Scrappy, entrepreneurial, and action-oriented programs that deliver omni-channel, lifelong knowledge and skills development solutions are the movers that will radically redefine and likely dominate the legal education industry. Slow, tradition-bound programs resistant to change are non-movers that face extinction.

Entrepreneurial education leaders committed to program growth know that since competitive advantages are transitory, they must create and nurture opportunities for continuous innovation. They also recognize the nexuses between customer satisfaction, institutional relevance, program solvency, and employee job security. These mindset shifts, coupled with a bias for action and modernization, will provide fruitful paths for new doctrinal and skill transfer services by legal education programs.

While tinkers to student admissions and traditional business models may temporarily buffer the forces of creative destruction, the market will ultimately sort winners and losers. Because technology does not respect reputations or legacies, incumbent institutions face significant risks from flexible, adaptive and shape-shifting competitors that exploit emerging technologies. These shape-shifters rapidly respond to market changes by re-engineering and reinventing their business models, platforms, systems, and processes to capitalize on emerging trends—with an end goal of human-AI integration.

Bottom line: innovation represents the only firewall to obsolescence.

See also Hilary G. Escajeda (Denver), Legal Education: A New Growth Vision Part II – The Groundwork: Building a Customer Satisfying Innovation Ecosystem, 97 Neb. L. Rev. ___ (2019)

Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


It's a dead cat bounce, particularly when one considers 1) stagnant job outcomes despite the better economy and especially 2) the still likely prospect that Sen. Alexander will greatly reduce federal graduate student lending with his redrafting of the HEA this year.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 15, 2019 12:56:22 PM

Innovation has an extraordinarily difficult time occurring when a system is primarily a box. Law schools are made up of deans and faculty members who are trapped within a set of strictures that impede adaptability, flexibility, innovation, understanding of the institutional purposes, and recognition of what is occurring in the outside world of lawyers, law firms, government employers, businesses and more.

Law deans and faculty members are not only trapped within a box, but are a main part of the material from which the box is constructed. They are shaped by the limited experience that many faculty possess, by the lingering effects of the traditions of legal education, by the incredible perks and benefits that accompany the life of the law professor, and by the fact that if a law school closed down or laid off a significant number of faculty members or administrators most of them would have no place to go in terms of pay, quality of life and opportunity.

The anti-innovative “box” is also constructed of ABA and State rules on law school curriculum and entitlement to practice. Portrayed as guarantors of educational quality, these institutional mandates are actually highly anti-competitive, anti-innovative, and unnecessarily expensive for students who must foot the bill for law faculty and administrators who earn lucrative salaries and retirement, health, travel, vacation and other benefits that far exceed what could be achieved in the private practice of law given that the ranks of the legal profession are shrinking and the upper end of law practice adapting to rapid development of Artificial Intelligence systems that reduce the demand for labor. For many law schools the “box” is also made up of the territorial and employer-type and location limits of the markets a particular institution is serving, including the extent to which the lawyer sectors are saturated and the underlying strength and weakness of an area’s economy because if there are limits on those who can pay for a lawyer’s services there are limits on a law school’s ability to place its graduates.

Although there are examples of some innovation in legal education, a substantial part of it involves wishful thinking and public relations projections rather than actual across-the-board reform in the nature and quality of legal education. There are few institutional systems that match American law schools in the extent to which they have been able to deflect and resist fundamental change. As long as the “box” of tenured and highly paid faculties controls the process many of the “reforms” will be minor, be public relations gambits, or of limited impact. In many instances what law faculties “invent” will be alleged strategies that look good on paper but reach few students or don’t really achieve anything meaningful. They also will often have little or nothing to do with what legal employers need from their lawyers.

Posted by: David Barnhizer | May 15, 2019 12:59:13 PM

Or - law schools could go back to teaching law instead of social justice.

Posted by: Dave H | May 16, 2019 11:20:22 AM