Legal education is at a crossroads, but you would hardly know it from law schools' response to a six-year decline in applications. Demand for legal education has declined every year since 2010 by nearly 40 percent. The same number of law schools have thirty-three thousand fewer prospective customers than they had five years ago. Because the vast majority of law schools are heavily dependent on tuition revenue to meet expenses, achieving enrollment targets is critical to the bottom line.
A high-quality legal education could be provided for half of today's average tuition. Here are a few suggestions for how to do it:
- Cut faculty numbers in half by requiring faculty to devote most of their time to teaching.
- Eliminate tenure and take advantage of a highly competitive market for law professors.
- Reduce law school from three to two years.
- Stop the facilities arms race.
- Take greater advantage of online instruction.
The key to finding new business models for legal education may ultimately rest with the high courts of the fifty states. If their bar-admission standards focus more on the qualifications in individual applicants and less on where applicants acquired those qualifications, legal educators would be freed to succeed or fail on the quality of the education they offer. The legal profession and the public would be better for it. Legal education would become sustainable and better adapted to twenty-first-century needs, and law students could begin their careers with little or no debt.
Source: James Huffman, "Law Schools Are Flunking," Hoover Institution, 2015.
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