The New Normal and the Challenge for Legal Education

Tags: Law Innovation

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On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, Silicon Flatirons convened a Roundtable of leaders from the legal, academic, and corporate communities to discuss the New Normal for legal education. The concept of a “New Normal” reflects the view that the changes now taking place are structural, not cyclical. The New Normal, in other words, is a state of affairs driven by globalization, technological change, and the pressure to do more for less. Reflecting the consensus that these structural changes have altered legal education, Roundtable participants called on law schools to provide their students with a strong value proposition and to adapt to today’s realities. For law schools, the fundamental challenge of the New Normal involves demonstrating that a legal education is worth the investment. On that point, Roundtable participants agreed that the training provided by a traditional legal education remains relevant in the New Normal. An effective legal education in today’s world, however, requires an additional set of new competencies. Notably, today’s graduates must understand other domains (e.g., finance and accounting, the technology industry, etc.), be creative problem solvers, and possess the professional skills necessary to build and leverage relationships—a key factor for success in the New Normal. Emphasizing the difficulty of teaching new competencies, Roundtable participants provided several frameworks for delivering this training effectively. These frameworks recognized that building a legal curriculum for the New Normal does not require a wholesale reinvention, but rather supplementation to teach additional competencies. Roundtable participants proposed several experimental approaches to teaching skills, developing a system for measuring competencies, and providing students with work experience before, during, and after law school. In short, curriculum change will be an ongoing process of experimentation.

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