Almost ten years ago, I began writing occasionally about the future of legal education and the legal profession. Living and working in Pittsburgh, as I do, I was struck back then by possible parallels between the rise and demise of 20th century Steel, the American industry largely grown up in and centered on Pittsburgh’s enormous integrated steel mills, and the rise and threatened demise of the 20th century legal profession, largely grown up in and centered on large integrated law firms in downtowns around the country.
Now, looking ahead 10 more years, I’m still wrestling with the law/Steel parallel, partly because I’m still wrestling with how to engage constructively with changes in law as a key profession in our emerging new global order, and partly because I’m still wrestling with how to engage constructively with Pittsburgh as a key emblem and example of post-industrial America. These are change management challenges, among other things, of an exceptionally high and complex order.
Just about two years ago, I posted a series of provocations that I titled, modestly, “An Invitation Regarding Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future.” You can read them as blog posts here. I later collected the posts, polished them, and posted the entire thing to SSRN, as an essay.
It’s time to prime the pump.
I wrote a series of posts about law school casebooks and what close readings of their origins and uses can tell us about things that can and cannot be changed about legal education, higher education, and more.
Here are the links, all in one place:
In this final installment of my occasional series on the past, present, and future of the law school casebook [first post here] [second post here] [third post here] [fourth post here], I’ll return to some crumbs that I left on the trail earlier, then take some swings at connecting them into some bigger payoffs.
A 360-degree tour of the casebook, as one of the most durable tools in higher education (really!), yields some possibly interesting ideas about the future of legal education generally – and maybe even higher education.
This occasional series about the law school casebook, for decades the fundamental teaching unit of American law students and many law students elsewhere, makes the case that micro changes in pedagogical expectations – what we teach with, rather than what we teach – have the potential to open pathways to macro changes in institutional culture both in schools and in the broader profession.
Earlier posts have outlined the broad claim, explored the motivations and incentives that drive the persistence of the casebook model, and even defended the uses of casebooks from the point of view of both students and professors. [First post here] [Second post here] [Third post here]
In this post, I want to turn the screws a little bit. The clearest and most direct argument in opposition to the current casebook model is economic, pure and simple. Casebooks cost students a lot of money, money that they often don’t have, money that they shouldn’t have to spend on teaching materials in law, and money that they might better spend on other things.