Current Issues in Legal Education

Exploring How Changes to the First-Year Law School Curriculum Could Benefit Students

Law School Curriculum: Reform, Assessment, and Research Design 

David A. Hyman(Georgetown Law), Jing Liu (East China University Law), and Joshua C. Teitelbaum (Georgetown Law) discuss how changes to the first-year law school curriculum could positively impact law students. The authors evaluate Georgetown Law’s curriculum B as an alternative to the traditional first-year course load.

Reviewing Diverse Approaches To Student Success

Investing in Academic Success: Diverse Approaches – a Blog Post by Prof. Charles Calleros (ASU) 

Professor Calleros (Arizona State University Law) discusses several different approaches in the design of academic success programs in law schools across the United States and abroad. The author provides analysis on what makes each program successful in improving outcomes for students. 

Addressing the Access To Justice Crisis Through Legal Education 

What The Access To Justice Crisis Means For Legal Education 

Kathryne M. Young (George Washington Law) describes the access to justice crisis in the United States as a deficit of just resolutions to civil justice problems for everyday people. The author argues that this crisis compels an examination of the scope and purpose of legal education and provides a framework for how law schools can address access to justice issues effectively. 

Published in UC Irvine Law Review (Vol. 11, No. 3) in 2021.

Law Profession as an Antiracist teaching institution

What’s (Race In) The Law Got To Do With It: Incorporating Race In Legal Curriculum 

Sonia Gipson Rankin (University of New Mexico Law) explains how to incorporate conversations about race within legal education. The essay describes cognitive dissonance theory, color blindness ideology, and its relationship to racial inequality, while providing classroom techniques that encourage dialogue related to conversations on equity and race. The author also includes classroom strategies to help professors’ awareness of equity in the legal profession and in the justice system. 

Published in Connecticut Law Review (Vol. 54, No. 4) in July 2022.  

Pushing Back on Attempts to Ban Critical Race Theory

This Is Not A Drill: The War Against Antiracist Teaching in America 

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (UCLA Law and Columbia Law), in her modified acceptance speech for the 2021 AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Legal Profession, reflects on her career and the recent challenges to teaching antiracist and social justice education that is now unfolding. The speech argues that the legal academy bears a collective responsibility to fight back against the silencing of antiracist frameworks, and calls on law schools to confront their historical agnosticism toward racial subordination and to defend the freedom to teach and learn Critical Race Theory against concerted efforts to undo its legacy.

Published in the UCLA Law Review (Vol. 68) in 2022. 

Reimagining Legal Education with focus on student wellness 

Wellness And Law: Reforming Legal Education To Support Student Wellness 

Janet Thompson Jackson (Washburn Law) details how law schools can shape curricula to benefit student wellness. The article argues that many students do not have to feel that their mental health and overall well-being will be significantly compromised during law school. The article provides a blueprint to reimagine legal education with a focus on wellness. 

Originally published in Howard Law Journal (Vol. 65, No. 1) in 2021 

History of Law School Clinics 

California Legal History Journal on Legal Clinics and Experiential Learning 

Professor Baker (Pepperdine Law) shares an excerpt from the most recent Journal of the California Supreme Court Historical Society which has been dedicated to experiential and clinical legal education.   

Published in California Legal History (Vol. 17) in 2022  

Preparing law students to be civic leaders 

Building the Next Generation of Rule of Law Leaders 
William Hubbard (Dean, University of South Carolina Law) describes the challenges that the United States faces regarding adherence to the rule of law despite seeing modest improvement in its score in the 2022 Rule of Law Index published annually by the World Justice Project (WJP). This opinion piece describes some specific issue that law schools should address as the country navigates challenges to the rule of law. 

Teaching students to look for the absence of diverse perspectives in law 

Meditations On Teaching What Isn’t
Kris Franklin (New York Law School) explores the teaching students to look for what is absent as a form of logical thinking. The article surveys a wide array of examples in various core legal subjects that point to the omission of diverse perspectives. The article provides law faculty and students with examples of ways to make more visible that which is currently not seen. 

Published in New York Law School Law Review (Vol. 66, No. 387) in June 2022.

Best Practices for Teaching and Learning in Legal Education

Fifty Ways to Promote Teaching and Learning
Gerald Hess, Professor Emeritus of Law at Gonzaga University School of Law, Michael Hunter Schwartz, Dean and Professor of Law at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, and Nancy Levit, Curators’ and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, focus on the efforts law schools and professors can make to improve instruction and student learning in the classroom. This article builds upon James Lindgren’s seminal article, “Fifty Ways to Promote Scholarship” (1999), which detailed numerous ideas for improving scholarship and the intellectual life of a law school.

Originally published in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 67, Issue 3) in December 2018.

Empirical Research in Clinical Legal Education

Measuring Law School Clinics
The four authors—Colleen Shanahan (Columbia Law), Jeffrey Selbin (UC Berkeley Law), Alyx Mark (Wesleyan University/American Bar Foundation), and Anna Carpenter (University of Utah Law)—report findings from a large dataset of legal cases that shed some light on the teaching-service promise of law school clinics. After analyzing thousands of unemployment insurance cases involving different types of representation, their findings revealed that clinical law students behave very similarly to practicing attorneys in their use of legal procedures and that clients also experience very similar case outcomes to clients of practicing attorneys. These findings are consistent with claims that law school clinics help prepare students to be practicing lawyers and to serve low-income clients as well as lawyers do.

The Evolving Role of the Associate Dean of Experiential Education

Exploring the Meaning of Experiential Deaning
This article explores the role associate deans of experiential education play in the changing landscape of legal education. Five authors—Margaret Martin Barry (Vermont Law) Robert Dinerstein (American University Washington College of Law), Phyllis Goldfarb (George Washington Law), Peggy Maisel (Boston University Law), and Linda Morton (California Western Law)—convened in Vermont to discuss the nature of their positions as associate deans of experiential education at their law schools. Survey findings indicate that the structure, content, and authority of this role is under-developed. The authors make recommendations on how law schools can carve out the role intentionally and provide institutional support to increase the efficacy of the position.

Originally published in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 67, Issue 3) in October 2018.

The Value of Local Legal Scholarship

Days of Future Past: A Plea for More Useful and More Local Legal Scholarship
Frank Bowman III, Floyd R. Gibson Missouri Endowed Professor of Law at University of Missouri School of Law, describes how the population explosion in American law schools during the 1990s and the simultaneous rise of the influence of U.S. News rankings created a bubble in legal scholarship. Bowman makes several recommendations for dealing with a ‘post-bubble’ landscape, including changing law school hiring practices to favor professors with more legal experience, assessing scholarship more by effect and less by placement, and devoting more scholarly attention to questions of state law and practice.

The Future of Legal Education

An Invitation Regarding Law and Legal Education, and Imagining the Future
Michael J. Madison, Director of the Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security and Faculty Director of the Innovation Practice Institute at University of Pittsburgh School of Law, explores conversations about the future of legal education in ways that integrate several threads of concern and revision that have emerged over the last decade. Madison argues these conversations should include participants beyond elite American law schools and private law firms.

Leadership Development in Legal Education

Law School Leadership and Leadership Development for Developing Lawyers
Louis D. Bilionis, Dean Emeritus and Droege Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, argues the conditions for successful leadership are present in law schools. The necessary leaders are in place and include faculty and staff who are adopting innovations to help advance students’ development as professionals. The authors refer to these select few as a “coalition of the willing” – opinion leaders with the greatest potential sway on those colleagues who have yet to adopt.

Originally published in the Santa Clara Law Review (Vol 58, Issue 3) in 2019.

Measuring the Impact of Legal Scholarship

Measuring Scholarly Impact: A Guide for Law School Administrators and Legal Scholars
Gary Lucas, Jr., Professor of Law and Senior Associate Dean at Texas A&M University School of Law, provides guidance for law deans and legal scholars interested in measuring the impact of legal scholarship. Lucas recommends that each law school create a Google Scholar profile for its faculty. By acting on this recommendation, administrators would dramatically improve their ability to assess the impact of legal scholarship.

Originally published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review (165) in 2017.

Taking Externship Scholarship to the Next Level

The Past and Future of Externship Scholarship
Harriet Katz, Clinical Professor Emerita of Law at Rutgers University School of Law, Camden, offers an overview of scholarship about legal externship produced over the past three decades, along with suggestions for the direction of future work.

Matching Law Practice and Legal Education

The Contextual Problem of Law Schools
Eli Ward, Charles W. Delaney Jr. Professor of Law at University of Denver Sturm College of Law, argues there is a mismatch between law practice and legal education. Ward provides recommendations in which law schools can systematically implement contextual insights into their curriculum and culture.

Enhancing Student Learning

Cracking Student Silos: Linking Legal Writing and Clinical Learning Through Transference
Mary Bowman, Director of the Legal Writing Program and Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law, and Lisa Brodoff, Director of the Ronald Peterson Law Clinic and Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law, studied the educational literature on transference to understand how they could help their students apply what is taught in their programs to future client work. Both authors describe what they learned from their endeavors and the typical barriers to transference, most significantly the effects of course-dependent siloing of student learning.

Legal Education Reconsidered

James P. White Lecture on Legal Education
During the James P. White Lecture on Legal Education at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, AALS Executive Director Judith Areen discussed how legal education has been “reconsidered” by prospective students as the result of a challenging job market and negative media coverage. The lecture was published in the Indiana Law Review.

“Working together, deans and faculty, schools and organizations, we need not fear what will happen as others reconsider legal education,” Areen said. “Together we should be able to regain the confidence of qualified college students and graduates that law school is a good choice for someone who wants to make a difference during their professional career both in service to others, and in addressing some of the most intractable problems that face our communities, nation, and the world.”

The Market for Law Schools and their Graduates

The Demand for Legal Education: The Long View
Deborah M. Hussey Freeland, Research Fellow at the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, examines available data on the total number of law school applicants, including long-term economic and demographic trends in the demand for legal education.

Originally published in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 65, Issue 1) in August 2015.

Practice-Based Learning

Practice in the Academy: Creating “Practice Aware” Law Graduates
Jay Gary Finkelstein, corporate transactional Partner at DLA Piper LLP (U.S.), presents two practical solutions that will enhance traditional doctrinal courses, such as hiring practitioners to work with full-time faculty to develop practice-based curriculum offerings and providing interactive pedagogy that replicates the practice of law. Finkelstein serves on the adjunct law school faculties of at Stanford, Berkeley, Georgetown and Penn.

Originally published in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 64, Issue 4) in May 2015.

Learning Technologies in Legal Education

Law Schools and Technology: Where We Are and Where We Are Heading
Michele Pistone, Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law, analyzes the conditions and trends that encourage greater use of learning technologies in legal education.

Originally published in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 64, Issue 4) in May 2015.

Support of Legal Services Corporation

AALS Letter in Support of Funding the Legal Services Corporation
Access to justice is at the core of our constitutional society. As Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell once wrote, “Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building; it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society.”

Today’s Justice System and The Supreme Court

The Open Mind: Equal and Unequal Justice
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow provides insight into the American justice system and legal education on PBS’ The Open Mind. During the discussion, she discusses race relations in the U.S., the need to support access to justice initiatives, and the role technology can play toward the pursuit of equal justice.

Supreme Court of the United States Decision on Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin

Supreme Court of the United States Decision on Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled (4-3) in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II) that the University of Texas’ use of race as a consideration in the admissions process does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

From Law Review to Common Sense

In Praise of Law Reviews (and Jargon-Filled, Academic Writing)
Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard Law School professor and former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, outlines the value of law review articles, not just to academia or the legal profession, but to society as a whole. Though law review articles are often criticized as “jargon-filled” or “too-specialized,” he argues that many ideas constructed by legal scholars have made a significant impact, leading to what is now accepted as common sense by the public.

Statement from AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education on Proposed California Bar Admission Changes

Statement on the California Task Force on Admissions Regulation Recommendations (TFARR)
The Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Clinical Legal Education has issued a statement on the proposal by the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Recommendations (TFARR) of the State Bar of California to change the requirements for taking the California Bar Examination.

Statement from AALS Deans Steering Committee on Proposed California Bar Admission Changes

Statement on the California Task Force on Admissions Regulation Recommendations (TFARR)
The Steering Committee of the Association of American Law Schools’ Deans Forum has issued a statement on the proposal by the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Recommendations (TFARR) of the State Bar of California to change the requirements for taking the California Bar Examination.

Modern Legal Education and Law School Leadership

Law Schools and the Changing Environment of the Legal Profession
In a conversation with University of California Television, Daniel B. Rodriguez, 2014 AALS President and Dean, Northwestern University School of Law, discusses changes and innovations happening with American legal education and in the legal profession. He discusses the challenges that law schools face today and working with various constituency groups including alumni, state bar associations, and law firm leadership. In addition, Dean Rodriguez discusses refining the law school curriculum, cross-campus initiatives and engaging alumni throughout their careers.

Linking Law Schools and U.S. Domestic Policy Needs

How can law schools help address society’s greatest needs?
Peter B. Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, talks about the public policy choices that have been made regarding poverty, unemployment, race, immigration and gender issues in the United States and discusses the role law school clinics can play in addressing some of the country’s most pressing matters.

Professor Edelman’s talk served as the Keynote Address for the AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education – Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change for the sessions on May 5, 2015 in Rancho Mirage, California.

Black Lawyers Matter

Why the U.S. needs black lawyers even more than it needs black police
In this opinion article for The Guardian, Yolanda Young, lawyer and founder of the website “On Being a Black Lawyer,” examines the importance of African Americans in the bar and the impact the lack of Black lawyers is having on the U.S. justice system.

Studies Point to an Improving Legal Industry in Key Areas

Law Schools and Industry Show Signs of Life, Despite Forecasts of Doom
In this New York Times piece, Steven Davidoff Solomon, professor of law at University of California, Berkeley, looks at the structural changes in legal education and the legal industry. He notes that recent studies have pointed to signs of optimism in the profession and the overall need for skilled lawyers is unlikely to change over time.

The Value of a Legal Education

Statement on the Value of a Legal Education
This statement was developed by the Deans Steering Committee of the Association of American Law Schools and concerns the critical role legal education plays in civil society and its progress. It is offered as a resource and, where appropriate, as a point of discussion to those interested in legal education.

Investing in a Legal Education

Financing a Legal Education

It pays for students who borrow to finance their legal education to familiarize themselves with all the tools available to manage debt, including a wide variety of repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. The standard repayment period is 10 years but that may be extended. Some payments are tied to borrowers’ income and may be reduced for hardship cases, but not all types of loans are eligible for forgiveness and extensions.

History and Experiences of Women in Legal Education

Looking back at the challenges that women faced in joining the legal academy and profession in the mid-20th century
Professor Marina Angel, Temple Temple University Beasley School of Law interviews U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education’s Oral History Project.

Review of After the JD III, A Law Professor’s Take

After the JD III Reviewed
D. Benjamin Barros, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Widener University Law School-Harrisburg, provides his thoughts on the findings in After the JD III: Third Results from a National Study of Legal Careers by The American Bar Foundation and the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education.

From Theory to Practice

Theory Makes Successful Lawyering Possible
In this New York Law Journal column, Jeremy Paul, Dean of Northeastern University School of Law, highlights how the legal theory learned in law school, is crucial to success in practicing law.

Originally published in the New York Law Journal on April 21, 2014.

On Legal Scholarship

Why law professors’ scholarly research matters
Critics from the bench to the bar have complained that much legal scholarship serves little or no practical purpose and wastes law school resources. But Robin West and Danielle Citron show how it is often the work of scholars that breaks important ground on how laws are interpreted and enforced, from invoking the Civil Rights Act to stop sexual harassment in the workplace to embedding cost-benefit analysis into regulation and rule-making.

Who Benefits from a Cap on Federal Student Loans?

Bootleggers and Baptists in the Student Loan Debate
University of Maryland Law Professor Frank Pasquale describes the push to cap federal student loans as a move to benefit private lenders rather than reduce tuition costs for students. He likens advocates of the proposal to the bootlegger/baptist coalition of the Prohibition Era.

Originally published in the blog Balkinization (October 2015)

In Defense of Tenure

The risks of eviscerating tenure at ABA-accredited law schools
Former law school deans Robert A. Gorman and Elliott S. Milstein robustly defend tenure in a letter to the ABA Section on Legal Education and the Bar, which had proposed weakening or eliminating the tenure requirement for law school accreditation. The tenure system ensures that law professors can challenge powerful interests and propose changes in the justice system without fear of reprisals, they argue. Diluting tenure protection would likely “be an excuse for underpaying faculty (or) for running a school principally with part-time faculty.” Later in 2014, the Section decided not to change the tenure requirements in its standards.

See the Signatories