From the abstract for Bernard A. Burk, The New Normal Ten Years In: The Job Market For New Lawyers Today And What It Means For The Legal Academy Tomorrow, 12 FLA. INT’L L. REV. — (forthcoming 2019):

Despite record-low general unemployment and a strong economy, the graduating law-school Class of 2017 entered a much smaller and more constrained labor market than existed ten years before. Overall, the number of entry-level, strongly law-related jobs (“Law Jobs”) that the Class of 2017 obtained was 26% lower than the Class of 2007, and remains at levels not seen since the early 1990s. The only reason that greater proportions of the graduating class are obtaining Law Jobs than in recent years is the dramatic decrease in the number of students attending law school since 2010.

Examination of the various sectors of the entry-level Law-Jobs market shows that no sector produces more Law Jobs today than it did in 2007. That said, some sectors’ hiring shrank more than others. While there are fewer entry-level Law Jobs overall today than in 2007, there were no drastic changes in the non-law-firm sectors’ share of all Law Jobs or of the graduating class. Among private law firms, it is the smallest (2–10 lawyers) and the largest (over 500 lawyers) that have reduced their entry-level hiring least.

In addition, a look at the pattern of entry-level hiring in the ABA’s “JD Advantage” category (referring to jobs that are law-related but do not require a law license) provides quantitative evidence that many of these positions have long been, and remain, distinctly less preferred by and less satisfying to new graduates than conventional law practice. These findings call into doubt comments touting work that is merely law-related as the future of the profession, and suggest that most law schools would be wise to concentrate on preparing their students for practice.

For reasons explained in detail, there is no reason to believe that any of these patterns will change in the foreseeable future. Overall, this implies that the steady and rapid entry-level legal-employment growth common from the 1970s through the mid-2000s is over, and a stable “New Normal” has established itself. This New Normal likely will see only gradual growth in entry-level Law-Jobs hiring at rates roughly equal to the growth rates of the domestic population and economy—about 1%–3% per year overall.

These changes impose a straitened perspective on the recent increase in applicants to law school in the 2017–2018 admissions cycle, the first meaningful increase since 2010. Given that any substantial expansion in the need for new lawyers is unlikely, any continued improvement in the employment prospects of new law graduates at most law schools will be dependent on keeping entering-class size steady or making it smaller. Law schools that grow without a specific and quantifiable basis to predict commensurate expansion in particular labor markets that they directly serve risk diluting their graduates’ employment outcomes, with corresponding adverse effects on their life and career prospects, as well as the reputation of the institution.

On Lawfare, Ryan Scoville asked “how, and how often, do legal academics use FOIA?” He writes “the actual use of FOIA and its state-law equivalents in legal academia has been quite limited. By my count, fewer than 60 law review articles in the entire Westlaw database report that the author obtained or tried to obtain records under a freedom-of-information law in carrying out the underlying research. In other words, law professors generally embrace transparency—but have traditionally relied upon others to supply it.”

Bridget J. Crawford’s Information for Submitting to Online Law Review Companions (Feb. 2019) “contains information about submitting essays, commentaries, reviews, responses, and other writings to online companions to the main law reviews and journals at selected law schools. The document includes word-count limitations, subject matter specifications, preferred submission methods and other information of possible interest to authors. It covers 20 online companions to main law reviews.”

Here’s the abstract for Robert Blacksberg’s Envisioning the AI-Enabled Legal Team of the Future, 2018 ctrl ALT del conference:

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be found again in the front row of technology investment and development. Perhaps better standing for “augmented intelligence,” AI tools that employ machine learning, natural language processing and expert systems, among others, with the power to handle big data, are earning a place at the legal team’s table.

Now we must bring to the table the people with the necessary skills and understanding to incorporate AI in legal practice.They need to participate in the organization and delivery of legal services from the beginning of engagements and become active members of project teams. There emerged from the ALT conference a vision of a less hierarchical team, with a broader set of skills and a greater degree of client involvement than the traditional phalanx of rainmaker partner, engagement partner, associate and support staff.

From the abstract for Joe Lawprofblawg and Darren Bush, The Most Important Law Review Article You’ll Never Read: A Hilarious (in the Footnotes) yet Serious (in the Text) Discussion of Law Reviews and Law Professors (Feb. 2019):

No! Stop! Go back! Reading the abstract is like taking the red pill in the Matrix.

In this article we discuss “the game.” “The game” is the quest for measuring scholarship success using metrics such as law review ranking, citation counts, downloads, and other indicia of scholarship “quality.” We argue that this game is rigged, inherently biased against authors from lower ranked schools, women, minorities, and faculty who teach legal writing, clinical, and library courses. As such, playing “the game” in a Sisyphean effort to achieve external validation is a losing one for all but a few. Instead, we argue that faculty members should reject this entrenched and virulent hierarchy, and focus on the primary purposes of writing, which are to foster innovation in a fashion that is both pleasing to the author and that improves society. We discuss this rigged game, and seek to reframe our academic life to focus on enhancing innovation and discourse. We would start by skipping abstract writing.

Now go back to your life. Don’t even think about downloading and reading this. It’s too dangerous.

From Scott F. Norberg, The Case for an ABA Accreditation Standard on Employment Outcomes, 67 J. Legal Educ. 1035 (2018):

This article proposes a draft ABA employment outcome standard. Under this draft, a school would be required to demonstrate that, for two or more of the past five graduating classes, at least sixty percent of its graduates had full-time (FT), long-term (LT), bar passage-required (BPR) or J.D. Advantage (JDA) jobs at ten months after graduation. It further provides that in lieu of complying with the sixty percent requirement at ten months after graduation for a given graduating class, a school may
comply with the standard by demonstrating that at least seventy-five percent of the class was employed in FT, LT, BPR or JDA jobs at twenty-two months after graduation. An employment outcome standard could be adopted in addition to or in lieu of the existing bar passage standard.

US News & World Report has announced that it is creating a new ranking, separate from the overall Best Law Schools, that measures faculty productivity and impact. The intent is to analyze each law school’s scholarly impact based on a number of accepted indicators that measure its faculty’s productivity and impact using citations, publications and other bibliometric measures. U.S. News is collaborating with William S. Hein & Co. Inc. to complete this analysis.

For reactions to this change by law professors, see the links in this post.

From the abstract for Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan S. Masur & Kyle Rozema, Rethinking Law School Tenure Standards (Jan. 31, 2019):

Academic departments decide on tenure standards with limited evidence about their accuracy and efficacy. We study the implications of stricter tenure standards in law schools, an environment in which 95 percent of all tenure track hires receive tenure. To do so, we construct a novel dataset of the articles and citation counts of 1,720 law professors who were granted tenure at top-100 law schools between 1970 and 2007. We first show that pre-tenure research records are highly predictive of future academic impact. We then simulate the costs and benefits of applying stricter tenure standards using predictions of law professors’ future academic impact at the time of their tenure decision. Of faculty members not tenured under stricter standards, only 5 percent have greater future academic impacts than their counterfactual replacements. Moreover, increasing tenure denials by 10 percentage points would increase the academic impact of a school’s median professor by over 50 percent.

From the blurb for Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (Stanford UP, 2019) by Meera E. Deo:

This book is the first formal, empirical investigation into the law faculty experience using a distinctly intersectional lens, examining both the personal and professional lives of law faculty members.

Comparing the professional and personal experiences of women of color professors with white women, white men, and men of color faculty from assistant professor through dean emeritus, Unequal Profession explores how the race and gender of individual legal academics affects not only their individual and collective experience, but also legal education as a whole. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative empirical data, Meera E. Deo reveals how race and gender intersect to create profound implications for women of color law faculty members, presenting unique challenges as well as opportunities to improve educational and professional outcomes in legal education. Deo shares the powerful stories of law faculty who find themselves confronting intersectional discrimination and implicit bias in the form of silencing, mansplaining, and the presumption of incompetence, to name a few. Through hiring, teaching, colleague interaction, and tenure and promotion, Deo brings the experiences of diverse faculty to life and proposes a number of mechanisms to increase diversity within legal academia and to improve the experience of all faculty members.

From the abstract for Nicholas A. Mirkay & Palma Joy Strand, Disruptive Leadership in Legal Education (Jan. 2019):

Legal education is ripe for disruption because the legal profession and the law itself are ripe for disruption. In the last recession, demand for legal education dropped 40 percent, and only in the last year are we seeing increases in law school admissions. The recession illuminated an even bigger crisis for law and legal education—an increasing mismatch between the limited services that the law and lawyers provide and the vast and acute societal needs for legal services. A recent American Bar Association study estimated that 80 percent of the poor and those of moderate income lack meaningful access to our justice system and legal services.

Ample scholarship exists on how to restructure legal education to address this mismatch. However, this essay undertakes a new focus—the tough and potentially perilous road of attempting necessary change in a real-world law school setting. We impart our experiences as unwitting “disruptive leaders” prodding a small, private law school to meet the changing legal environment, and experiencing extreme blowback as result. We discuss characteristics of academia generally that contributed to this resistance—tenure, academic freedom, and the imperatives of university administration to raise funds and maintain tradition rather than respond innovatively to shifting economic and social dynamics. We also highlight characteristics of legal education that make disruptive leadership particularly unlikely to succeed: the ABA monopoly in legal regulation and the gendered nature of law and legal education.

This essay provides a narrative that will resonate with many in legal academia, as well as academia in general. The peer reviews we received also confirmed that this essay will jumpstart an important and necessary conversation on these issues.

On Associate’s Mind, Keith Lee writes “Another year, another data dump. December 15th is the annual reporting day for ABA 509 Disclosures for all ABA approved law schools. These are required public disclosures that law schools must make as part of their ABA accreditation. As soon as the ABA started releasing the data, I began to compile it and release reports at Associate’s Mind.” See Law Schools ABA 509 Disclosure Reports 2018 (Stats + Graphs) for details.

From the abstract for Laura P. Graham, Generation Z Goes to Law School: Teaching and Reaching Law Students in the Post-Millennial Generation, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, 2019, Forthcoming:

This Article … examines three learning characteristics of Generation Z students that have direct implications for legal educators: they are saturated with technology, they are weaker than their predecessor generations in critical reading, thinking, and writing, and they prefer to work alone rather than in collaborative settings.

Finally, this Article suggests concrete strategies for legal educators to address the challenges presented by Generation Z students, focusing on five areas: (1) more instruction in critical reading; (2) more writing opportunities across the law school curriculum; (3) more thoughtful (and perhaps more sparing) use of technology in the classroom; (4) more careful attention to how and when we use collaborative learning techniques; and (5) more emphasis on encouraging mindfulness and wellness in our students.

H/T to Legal Skills Prof Blog for calling attention to Nikos Harris, The Risks of Technology in the Law Classroom: Why the Next Great Development In Legal Education Might Be Going Low-Tech, 51 UBC L REV 773 (2018). Here’s the abstract:

It is often assumed that technology improves every facet of our lives, including learning in the university classroom. However, there is mounting evidence that traditional lecturing and note-taking techniques may provide the optimal learning environment. Student use of laptops, and professor use of electronic course slides, may actually impair learning in a manner which has particular significance for legal education. This emerging evidence suggests that law professors can make a justifiable decision to bring about a “low tech revolution” in their classrooms. Achieving that revolution is more complicated when it comes to student use of laptops, but there are a number of techniques which can be used to encourage students to consider dusting off a pen and pad of paper.

Gregory W. Bowman has posted The Rise of the Creative Law School, University of Toledo Law Review, Forthcoming. Here’s the abstract:

U.S. legal education is currently experiencing rapid and massive change that is both destabilizing and disconcerting. Across the nation, law schools face enormous challenges and a future filled with programmatic and financial uncertainty. This essay uses the work of urbanist Richard Florida to discuss these challenges and suggest ways to develop paths forward that best benefit law students, the public, and law schools themselves.

H/T Legal Skills Prof Blog.

Dangerous Leaders: How and Why Lawyers Must Be Taught to Lead (Stanford UP, Aug. 21, 2018) by Anthony C. Thompson “exposes the risks and results of leaving lawyers unprepared to lead. It provides law schools, law students, and the legal profession with the leadership tools and models to build a better foundation of leadership acumen. Anthony C. Thompson draws from his twenty years of experience in global executive education for Fortune 100 companies and his experience as a law professor to chart a path forward for better leadership instruction within the legal academy. Using vivid, real-life case studies, Thompson explores catastrophic political, business, and legal failures that have occurred precisely because of a lapse in leadership from those with legal training. He maintains that these practices are chronic leadership failures that could have been avoided. In examining these patterns of failures, it becomes apparent that legal education has fundamentally misread its task.

“Thompson proposes a fundamental rethinking of legal education, based upon intersectional leadership, to prepare lawyers to assume the types of roles that our increasingly fast-paced world requires. Intersectional leadership challenges lawyer leaders to see the world through a different lens and expects a form of inclusion and respect for other perspectives and experiences that will prove critical to maneuvering in a complex environment. Dangerous Leaders imparts invaluable tools and lessons to best equip current and future generations of legal leaders.”

From the abstract for Deborah N. Archer, Political Lawyering for the 21st Century, Denver Law Review (Forthcoming):

Legal education purports to prepare the next generation of lawyers capable of tackling the urgent and complex social justice challenges of our time. But law schools are failing in that public promise. Clinical education offers the best opportunity to overcome those failings by teaching the skills lawyers need to tackle systemic and interlocking legal and social problems. But too often even clinical education falls short: it adheres to conventional pedagogical methodologies that are overly narrow and, in the end, limit students’ abilities to manage today’s complex racial and social justice issues. This article contends that clinical education needs to embrace and reimagine political lawyering for the 21st century in order to prepare aspiring lawyers to tackle both new and chronic issues of injustice through a broad array of advocacy strategies.

H/T beSpacific.

Following up on this LLB report, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted 8-5 to reject the proposed transfer of Valparaiso’s law school to Middle Tennessee State University. Nashville Public Radio has the details:

The biggest critics of the transfer came from lawyers and law schools in Memphis and Knoxville, where the state’s only other public law schools are located. Comments generally regarded concerns of a watered down law school market for the state, since Nashville is already home to three law schools — Belmont University, Vanderbilt University and Nashville School of Law. Another school in the city, many said, would take away from other schools’ ability to compete, even if it’s a public option. And with higher education excellence often tied to career attainment outcomes, it would also saturate an already dense legal labor market, they said. MTSU’s transfer of a law school would make it even more difficult for law school graduates to find work.”