Susan Carle


I will first take a quick look in Part II at the basic data regarding employment statistics for recent law school graduates. This is the primary source of concern cited by those who argue that legal education is in profound crisis. What those statistics show, in a nutshell, is that large law firm hiring is down, but that small firm hiring is up by even more significant amounts, and that salaries for employed graduates continue to rise. What also continues to rise is the new law graduate unemployment rate, though not by the exaggerated dimensions some reports imply. New lawyers entering the employment market thus face significant challenges, but ones that law schools can respond to by following the directions the data indicate. I thus start my discussion of the current state of the legal education industry by analyzing the data on new graduate employment. In Part III, I focus on elements of legal education that are working well. I discuss the way in which law schools continue to provide a path to upward class mobility while at the same time generating trained advocates who can respond to the unmet legal needs of moderate income individuals and small businesses. Legal education also creates pathways to employment in the new jobs the global legal employment market is generating that exist at the intersections between law and other disciplines. And law schools continue to attract committed, hardworking faculties and administrators and to offer high quality educational programs admired around the world. In Part IV, I canvass areas in which reform is necessary. First, rigid hierarchies in legal education should be dismantled. Second, schools that engage in false reporting of statistics should be severely penalized.Third, I recognize the continuing need for law schools to assess their core missions and to adapt their curriculums to the changing professional landscape their graduates will face. In this discussion, I note some clear themes that have emerged in current curricular reform initiatives at many law schools. These include promoting clinics and other experiential and values-focused learning programs, revamping law schools’ third-year programs, increasing opportunities for students to practice the skills required for multidisciplinary collaboration, and returning to excellent core teaching with a focus on relevance to future professional practice. I conclude that legal education is not in profound crisis but in a period of challenge, offering possibilities for change that can lead to improvements, not decline.