The Corner

Education

How Law Schools Need to Change

Legal education hasn’t changed much in the last century, except for the addition of lots of tendentious courses — “bad sociology, not law” as Professor Charles Rounds said in this Martin Center article from 2010. And that’s unfortunate, argues Professor Kevin Lee of the Norman A. Wiggins Law School of Campbell University in today’s Martin Center piece.

Law schools, he argues, need to adapt to big data and technological change.

Since today’s best Artificial Intelligence finds patterns beyond human perception, this change means that AI has a growing capacity to enhance human legal reasoning, automate some aspects of legal work, and decrease the demand for licensed lawyers, even as the demand for legal services grows.

What does this mean for legal education?

According to Lee:

To adjust to this new reality, legal education should change from training lawyers as narrowly trained technicians with a few skills to training them as broadly educated, skills-rich experts who work in a variety of settings. For example, in the corporate world, since legal issues are increasingly viewed as complex problems in information structure and systemic organization, the problems that lawyers face will be managed better by teams of experts comprising lawyers, financial and marketing experts, accountants, and data engineers. The new role for the lawyer is to find a place in an environment where legal expertise is only one component of many.

But while, in this respect, law schools need to advance, Lee also thinks that they need to go back to an older tradition:

To educate lawyers to confront ideological bias, law schools need to reconnect with their historical roots that viewed teaching good citizenship and a concern for the common good as fundamental to education. At least some of the religiously affiliated law schools never lost that mission. They could serve as intellectual centers for religious critiques of the social and political ethics of the emerging AI society.

Law schools might make some changes, probably more of the former than the latter, but as long as they are the gatekeepers for entry into the legal profession (in all but a few states, you can’t take the bar exam unless you have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school), the incentives for change are rather weak. The arguments over legal licensure, however, are for another day.

Something to Consider

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George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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