The Rise and Fall of American Legal Education

41 Pages Posted: 27 May 2005


American legal education has been enormously successful, fueled by high enrollment, high tuition, and a seemingly endless supply of new students. This article suggests that the model is not sustainable over the long run given the current model of education and financing. Other than the handful of highly prestigious or very low cost schools, most institutions face a precarious future. The issue is one of value; prospective students, faculty, and the public look to prestige in making decisions. This leads schools to engage in a race for higher rankings. In the short-run, schools can dress their outward appearance, but doing so fails to improve their actual quality. This failure ultimately places the school in jeopardy if costs continue to rise and job prospects do not keep pace with increased cost. The article concludes that most schools have neither the prestige nor low cost to survive without providing real value to their students. They will fail unless they radically change their business models and adopt new business techniques, including reducing the cycle time to adulthood, diversifying their customer bases, joining international consortia, partnerships, and distance learning projects, and considering mergers, acquisitions, and going out of business sales. The article proposes that schools establish real missions to build better professionals.

Keywords: legal education, reform, higher-education finances

Suggested Citation

Matasar, Richard Allan, The Rise and Fall of American Legal Education. Available at SSRN:

Richard Allan Matasar (Contact Author)

Tulane University

6823 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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