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Unpublished Paper
Survival Strategies for "Ordinary" Law Schools
  • David Barnhizer
This analysis is focused on approaches and actions that involve “ordinary” American law schools located in the middle range of competition that are not insulated from the worst of the trends. It is important to understand that for those “ordinary” law schools there is no single choice that could be effective in their struggle to adapt to the changing environment. The specific conditions for creating and implementing effective strategies vary depending on the particular law school, and the applicant and employment markets to which the school has access. These are further influenced positively or negatively by reputational and programmatic realities and opportunities, by sources and scope of funding and by the degree of competition with other law schools in the specific markets served by the law school. Many law schools are entering an era in which their student bodies and faculties must shrink, where job security is reduced, life-tenure is questioned and even terminated, and the level of acceptable productivity takes on a different meaning than showing up twice a week for classes and producing an occasional article every two or three years that is read only by a handful of academics who already agree with the author. As stark as the situation must seem, there are competitive options that many “ordinary” law schools can pursue to enhance their odds of survival. It is critical to differentiate between the large-scale macro considerations dictating important institutional and structural actions—such as American Bar Association accreditation rules, state Supreme Court governance, bar examination requirements, total potential applicants on a national level, financial costs to law students and the declining earnings potential of lawyers--and the micro-factors impacting on specific law schools. This is because it is in the micro-factors where individual law schools can identify and implement strategies and develop individualized tactics that are within their ability to control. The strategic points raised in the latter part of this brief analysis focus mainly on such factors.
  • legal education,
  • law school decline,
  • law school strategies,
  • bar examination,
  • ABA accreditation,
  • nationalizing the right to practice law,
  • on-line legal education,
  • law school consortia,
  • elite law schools,
  • “ordinary” law schools,
  • “flagship” law schools,
  • decline in law school applicants,
  • tenure,
  • loss of tenure,
  • adjunct and part-time faculty,
  • law school “incubators”,
  • eliminating bar examinations,
  • distance learning,
  • downsizing tenured faculty,
  • hiring contractual faculty,
  • creating budgetary flexibility,
  • law school declining economies of scale,
  • increasing faculty workload,
  • reducing tuition,
  • expanding tuition forgiveness for public service,
  • creating new market niches,
  • new types of law degree programs,
  • a two-year “first degree” in law for limited areas of law practice.
Publication Date
Citation Information
David Barnhizer. "Survival Strategies for "Ordinary" Law Schools" (2014)
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