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These are preliminary versions of prompts for re-visioning and renewing legal education for the 21st century. These are prepared by Michael Madison at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law; comments and suggestions should be directed to him.

[1] Economics. A blunt summary of the bleak finances of US law schools today, as they rely on a program design (faculty, curriculum, pedagogy, expected outcomes) developed for an early 20th century industrial economy. Posted on June 22, 2024; updated July 8, 2024.

  • The introduction: “This document attempts to demystify the opaque financial and cultural systems that drive US law schools today. It takes as a given that many (but not all) law schools are under enormous financial pressure, for reasons that relate to financial pressures on the legal profession as a whole (external factors, in other words) but that also relate to the evolution of structures of higher education and legal education through history (internal factors). Among practicing lawyers and even many law professors, law schools are, proverbially, rolling in dough. For reasons that will be explained below, that isn’t true. Law schools are awash in red ink. The questions are why, and what might be done about that?

[2] Curriculum. A specification for a year-long “welcome to law and law school” curriculum that may be implemented at any law school, as a “gap-filler” that extends and deepens orientation through the first year and links it to ongoing “professional identity formation” programming or as a gateway to more substantial revision of the entire law school program. Posted on June 22, 2024.

  • The introduction: “This is a specification, which means that it lays out a concept that animates an educational program, lays out the purposes of the program, and identifies the required or expected elements of the program. Metaphorically, it borrows the idea of a specification from the field of computer program development. Before writing code, good developers produce a specification for a program; the coding itself follows – meaning that the specification might be implemented, in code, in multiple different ways. Here, the program is a year-long introduction to law school, law, the legal system, and the legal profession for students entering a US-style JD program. The program is intended to sit alongside and complement brief “welcome to law school” “orientation” programs, the traditional first-year analytic curriculum (courses in Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law, and so forth), and the now-traditional first-year curriculum in legal research, writing, and analysis. The concept at work here and the requirements that flow from that concept are designed both “horizontally,” meaning that they should work together to generate a comprehensive, top-to-bottom and beginning-to-end experience for beginning law students, and also “vertically,” meaning that they should link up with complementary experiences that law students will go through during their second and third years.”

[3] Innovators. A list of “law labs” operating in law schools around the world. Directors of these academic units are often the most creative, imaginative systems thinkers in legal education. As a pool of talent, they offer leadership, meaning vision, energy, and execution in program design and inspiration and training for a new generation of legal leaders. Law labs are sources for many of the best ideas for institution- and sector-wide renewal for legal education and training itself. Posted on June 22, 2024.