January 01, 2017

A Different Take on the Top Ten Legal Education Stories of 2016

Barry Currier
Managing Director

What were the top ten legal education stories of 2016?

Karen Sloan, the excellent reporter who covers legal education for the National Law Journal,offers this list, and it got me thinking.  Her list certainly includes the stories that got a lot of media attention, but they were overwhelmingly critical, negative in tone, or bad news.

While it would be naïve to ignore the challenges that legal education faces, there is, as Paul Harvey would say, a “rest of the story.” That story is not only not all bad, there is quite a lot of good news to report.

So, how about a different list – a top ten list of good news or positive stories about what happened in legal education last year. Such a list makes clear that it is not too Pollyana-ish to see the legal education glass as more than half-full and less than half-empty.   

Here is a list that can sit beside Karen’s list, in no particular order, of good news that also marks what happened in legal education in 2016:

1.  The substantial amount of pro bono work that law students, faculty, and staff provided on an amazingly wide array of legal problems and topics.

2.  New and ongoing Innovative programs that increase student engagement and contribute to student success in and after law school.

3.  Law schools’ work with the Innocence Project.

4.  The continuing philanthropic support for legal education.

5.  Law schools development and investment in incubator programs to support young lawyer career development.

6.  Law school satellite programs and locations that better serve students, educationally and in the search for good jobs.

7.  New, interesting, and worthwhile non-J.D. degree and certificate programs being offered at law schools across the country.

8.  Research about what young lawyers and the profession need from legal education will inform curricular innovation going forward.

9.  Comparative and international programming and research continues to expand.

10.  Increased attention on teaching and learning in law schools, fueled at least in part by new ABA Standards on learning outcomes and assessment programs.

Readers may have different, better ideas of what should be on this list. It is not hard these days to flesh out specific stories to illustrate the items on this list. A good place to start is the AALS website, which does an excellent job of aggregating much of the good news and is fed by contributions from law schools.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant and helpful change to see positive stories beside the negative and critical ones? We should redouble our efforts to get these stories out there and our efforts to have our friends and colleagues in the media and blogosphere report them.