When Interests Converge: An Access-to-Justice Mission for Law Schools
37 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2016 Last revised: 19 Apr 2017
Date Written: October 1, 2016
In recent years, law schools have faced a crisis brought on by the external forces of technology, automation, and legal process outsourcing that has translated into poor job prospects for their graduates, and, in turn, a diminution in the number of students interested in attending law schools. Such external phenomena are joined by internal critiques of law schools: that they have failed to educate their students adequately for the practice of law and have adopted dubious strategies without a defining mission, all at a time when the market for legal services seems to be changing, perhaps dramatically. Paradoxically, while graduates face diminished job prospects, there is still a vast justice gap: the inability of millions of Americans to obtain legal assistance when facing a legal problem. There is thus an interest convergence between those who might want access to a lawyer and the law schools that strive to educate the next generation of lawyers and the ones after that. This Article uses this interest convergence — and the late Derrick Bell’s “Interest Convergence Theory” as a lens through which to view it — as an opportunity for law schools to retool their missions to confront the access-to-justice crisis facing many Americans. It argues that law schools should embrace an access-to-justice component to their missions to help increase demand for legal services, re-establish the value of legal assistance to the community, restore the importance of the legal profession in preserving and extending societally important rights and interests, and improve the demand for legal education.
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