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LawWithoutWalls: A Glimpse into the Future of (Legal) Education, Contributed by Michael Bossone and Michele M. DeStefano, University of Miami School of Law

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Conventional Wisdom Wise?

Every year, around eighty-five thousand people apply to American law schools. If they have thoroughly done their research, they have read a few books, spoken to countless friends and relatives, browsed hundreds of law school websites, and attended a few forums, all in an effort to determine where they want to go to law school.

Conventional wisdom tells them that if they scored well enough on their LSAT and earned a high enough GPA from a rigorous enough undergraduate institution, they will be welcomed into a law school of their choice. With that invitation will come the full resources and reputation of that school: recognized faculty, bright students, myriad clinics, robust student services, and perhaps most importantly, a name and alumni network that carries great weight with the law firms, government agencies, non-profits, corporations, and judges for whom these prospective students will someday want to work.

Using US News and World Report (and similar publications that claim to be excellent judges of law school quality) as their guide, they make their list of “stretches,” “reasonables,” and “safeties,” and begin dreaming of the “elite,” hoping for the “excellent,” prepping for the “good,” trying to avoid the “alright,” and dreading they don’t end up settling for the “bottom tier.” And if they don’t make it into a law school whose national reputation makes them marketable around the country, they know they will be limited in job options because the marketability of degrees from schools with strong regional and local reputations lessens exponentially the further they move away from those schools.

So the majority of prospective law students do what conventional wisdom tells them to do, and when the application process comes to an end, they choose to attend “the best school they got into,” the school that is highest up on “the list.”

But what if that conventional wisdom is wrong? In an age where law schools continue to spend incredible amounts of money on glossy publications and flashy websites to entice students to bring their credentials and tuition dollars “here” instead of “there,” what if the emphasis on the individuality and differentiation of each particular law school is misplaced? Instead, what if the collective emphasis from all players in the law school world (presidents, provosts, deans, faculty, administrators, students, and alumni) was on the learning experience provided to students, regardless of where their tuition dollars go and what institution’s name appears on their diploma? What if law schools around the world united to embrace a spirit of collaboration and a culture of sharing, to sublimate their individual interests to the interests of law students, to shift their energy and resources to the development of lawyers who are prepared for the new world order of legal practice, and to engage in a robust global enterprise to utilize quantum leaps in technology to overhaul the mission, scope, and execution of legal education?

Are these na

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