Mobblog: What Kind of Institution Do We Want A Law School To Be?

Langdell, MacCrate, U.S. News, Carnegie, these names and more influence the structure of and debates about legal education. Recent attention to legal education has been strong. Schools are starting to experiment with different approaches to teaching law. Yet, as a professor who also has an interest in institution building, it occurred to me that legal education seems to mean different things to different people. This range of views leads to a general question “What Kind of Institution Do We Want A Law School To Be?”

Blogs have offered many different ways to think about specific law school questions. Paul Caron invited many to suggest one thing that a new school should do. Mike Madison has looked at how theory and practice connect or diverge in legal education. In contrast Brian Tamanaha explained Why the Interdisciplinary Movement in Legal Academia Might be a Bad Idea (For Most Law Schools). This post triggered a wave of discussion (Belle Lettre’s collection of many of them is here) including Larry Solum’s presentation about the evolution of legal education. Brian Leiter examined what he calls Washington & Lee’s Radical Transformation of the 3rd Year of Law School. Bruce Boyden has challenged the idea that practical aspects of training defeat the goals of teaching theory. And I asked whether law schools are trying to have a student graduate ready to practice or are they trying to address a different issue. The question led to a broader notion of changing law schools by suggesting that one may want to add an affiliated, teaching law firm to the law school institution.

In short legal education is on many minds. From my discussions and reading of the different posts it seems that many factors inform the views such as a schools’ status, visions of what a new graduate should be, the realities of a given market, and more. Still, something else jumped out to me: all the views seek to improve legal education.

So this mobblog frames the inquiry as “What Kind of Institution Do We Want A Law School To Be?” Perhaps by setting out that foundation, the questions of teaching, skills, research, costs, and access can be better answered or perhaps tailored to an individual institution. That is the aspiration of this series, and I hope you enjoy it.