A Blueprint for Change
United States legal education needs to change. Simply stated, there is a shrinking demand for the product we offer. At the vast majority of American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law schools, a large percentage of graduates are not obtaining full-time, permanent employment as practicing lawyers. This situation is partially driven by lawyer overproduction—for the last several decades, the number of law schools and law students has steadily expanded. At the same time, demand for traditional legal services has flattened and is now on the decline. There are multiple reasons for shrinking demand, including legal process outsourcing, more efficient work processes and staffing methods, automation, and flat or declining real incomes of lower and middle class citizens. Clients are also refusing to bear the training costs of junior-level lawyers—and with a plentitude of skilled senior lawyers who are unable or unwilling to retire, there is simply no need. As discussed herein, these changes are structural rather than cyclical. United States legal education exists in the present form only because of a system of federal student loans that is unsustainable, both financially and politically.
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