Renaissance or Retrenchment: Legal Education at a Crossroads
85 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2011 Last revised: 31 Dec 2012
Date Written: 2011
This Article begins to synthesize the literature criticizing the current state of legal education with the scholarship proposing solutions, and argues that whatever review is undertaken must be expansive, with a careful and critical look at how each piece supports the endeavor. None of the ideas discussed, taken alone, are novel, as scholarship abounds on all of the topics. Considered together, the analysis suggests that a comprehensive and holistic approach to reform is necessary. In essence, the goal is to catalyze a wholesale reconsideration of the very foundation of legal education. Many of the seemingly disparate themes comprise a Gordian Knot and cannot be rectified in isolation. Accordingly, the whole enterprise of legal education must be deconstructed, from how law schools recruit and admit law students to how lawyers are licensed, because the process supports a self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating system and culture that fails to serve law students and the society in which they will operate as professionals. The Author hopes this engenders a conversation that is unfreighted by and decoupled from history and compels legal educators and professionals to step back and critically assess how to restructure legal education by focusing on the best interests of law students instead of perpetuating the privilege and luxury of legal academia. Given the well-documented emotional and fiscal price that legal education is exacting from law students, it is unconscionable to maintain the status quo. After lamenting the current conditions that law students confront, one commentator noted that "[a]t some point, law professors can no longer disclaim responsibility for the harmful consequences of this enterprise."
This Article is comprised of three parts. Part I provides the historical backdrop for legal education, briefly critiques the current system, and discusses the impact of those shortcomings on law students. Part II considers a few of the solutions crafted in response to the current crisis facing legal educators. Part III suggests a wide array of reforms aimed at remediating these deficiencies and argues that any real reform must consider and integrate the seemingly disparate but interdependent factors.
Keywords: legal education, reform, crisis
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