From the Conglomerate
Death of "Big Law School'? Posted by Erik Gerding
Larry Ribstein has been writing and blogging up a storm about the "Death of Big Law." Larry makes a convincing case that the current economic crisis is not just a blip for law firms with everything returning to normal soon. Assuming that large law frims cannot deal with the structural problems Larry outlines and that the decline of big law is long term, what would that mean for legal education?
It would likely mean the end of the law school boom - with its expanding law faculties and the bumper crop of new law schools. Like it or not, the business model (I hate applying that term to legal education, but can't think of another one) of many law schools is heavily dependent on students getting high paying law firm jobs to pay off high law school tuition. Law firms are also prime benefactors of law school endowments. Without corporate law consuming law school graduates by the dozens, law school will face massive economic pressure.
On the one hand, these pressures will push law schools to improve the training of law graduates so that they are ready on "day one." Helping students in a tougher economic market supports the Carnegie/ABA best practices reforms that have been discussed so much.
But the changing economics of legal education will also cut the other way. The Best Practices model is expensive, and with tighter budgets law schools will also face pressures to move in the direction of the traditional "stack-em and pack-em" model of large classes. (Creative law professors may find ways to balance these pressures - for example many trial advocacy classes involve both a law professor and a roster of practitioner adjucts. Therese Maynard and Dana Warren have adapted this model to teaching transactional law to classes of 60+ at Loyola-LA.)