Thursday, July 23, 2020
William J. Carney (Emory), Curricular Change in Legal Education:
This article surveys basic changes in legal education from 1973 to 2017-2018, using a comparison of the sizes of the student body with the professoriate, and changes in the allocation of faculty resources over this period.
The paper documents law school enrollments over this period. In summary, student enrollments have been on a roller coaster, and now have declined to 1973 levels after a 40% increase. At the same time, faculty numbers have increased by 70%. While this has resulted in more favorable faculty-student ratios, bar passage rates nationally have declined from 82% to 72%. This is a classic picture of a failing industry, with high fixed costs due to tenure and cyclical revenues, forced to raise tuition to support what has become a bloated faculty. It also raises questions of whether declining bar passage rates are caused by the declining academic credentials of law school applicants, or modern failures in teaching.
The study documents that resources have been diverted (proportionally) from foundational and required courses to more academic and “boutique” courses. Some of this may be attributed to the increased number of law faculty members who hold advanced degrees in other fields, which may divert part of their teaching to courses with an affinity for their graduate training, rather than professional preparation.
Update: I corrected the post to state that the 46% decline is in the number of tax faculty, not in student enrollment in tax courses. Thanks to Daniel Hemel for alerting me to my error.