The Restructuring of Legal Education Along Functional Lines

47 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2008 Last revised: 5 Dec 2012

See all articles by William K. S. Wang

William K. S. Wang

University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: July 16, 2008


Currently, law schools tie together five quite distinct services in one package, offered to a limited number of students. These five functions are: (1) impartation of knowledge, (2) counseling/placement, (3) credentialing (awarding grades and degrees), (4) coercion, and (5) club membership. Students do not have the opportunity to pay for just the services they want or to buy each of the five services from different providers.

This article proposes an "unbundled" system in which the five services presently performed by law schools would be rendered by many different kinds of organizations, each specializing in only one function or an aspect of one function. Unbundling of legal education along functional lines would substantially increase student options and dramatically increase competition and innovation by service providers. This offers the hope of making available more individualized and better instruction and giving students remarkable freedom of choice as to courses, schedules, work-pace, instructional media, place of residence, and site of learning. Most importantly, this improved education would be available on an "open admissions" basis at much lower cost to many more individuals throughout the nation, or even the world.

In order to explain how to restructure the existing law school system, this article will discuss the five educational services presently performed by law schools, the disadvantages of tying these services together, a hypothetical unbundled world of legal education, the advantages of the unbundled system, answers to some possible objections to the system, and some recent developments in the use of technology and distance learning in law schools.

The main theme of this article is the advantage of unbundling. A more modest sub-theme is the benefit of use of technology and distance learning.

Keywords: distance education, distance learning, external degrees, open university, CALI, computer assisted legal instruction, unbundling higher education, unbundling education, OpenCourseWare, MIT OpenCourseWare, online education, online higher education, internet education, internet higher education

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Wang, William Kai-Sheng, The Restructuring of Legal Education Along Functional Lines (July 16, 2008). Journal of Contemporary Legal issues, Vol. 17, 2008, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 08-044, Available at SSRN:

William Kai-Sheng Wang (Contact Author)

University of California, Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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