May 2017

Law Schools Gone Innovating

Non-elite law schools are in crisis. If people didn’t believe that before, they should now after Whittier College’s announcement last month that it would close its law school.

But the legal education landscape is not uniform. Different regions have different contexts in which law schools educate students. There are good examples of innovation occurring.

In the aftermath of publishing “Disrupting law school: How disruptive innovation will revolutionize the legal world,” a white paper that Michele Pistone, a professor at Villanova’s law school, and I wrote about the existential threat facing non-elite legal education, I embarked on a listening tour and spoke with a handful of law school deans from around the country.

All confirmed the bleak picture portrayed in the paper. Some used language that mirrored the innovator’s dilemma. They talked about their inability to innovate in a disruptive way because of a legacy business model with costs that they had to continue to support. They bemoaned the lack of cash from both their operations and the central university. They speculated about mergers to come to share services and reduce costs.

But some pointed to bright spots of innovation in law schools—both in their law schools and elsewhere. Given the negative news around law schools, profiling some of these perhaps offers some hope for a road forward amidst the gloom.


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