Lawyers are back: Law schools retrench

Michael Moffitt, dean of the University of Oregon law school, talks about the future of legal education.

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Law school applications

Our applications are up significantly this year, but not anywhere near where they were in 2011. There has been a market reshaping. I don’t think we are likely to see it bounce back.

The problemMichael Moffitt head shot

For 100 years, law schools sold only one product: J.D.s. It was a real mistake to conflate the market for J.D.s with the market for legal education. We’re being punished.

A solution

We’re seeing a more sophisticated consumer who wants to learn what they need to know to be better at their job. Which isn’t being a lawyer. Someone who wants to start a business wants to learn about contract law. A school superintendent should know something about employment law.

Curriculum shift

We have a two-year master’s in conflict resolution. We have a thriving undergraduate legal studies program for people who never go on to law school.

What law firms want

Graduates who understand how technology will change the world. To be really good at that which cannot be automated. How to write; how to problem solve. Leadership skills.

How national politics is elevating the practice of law

We’re having a cultural moment.  This is a moment when the centrality of lawyers is in high relief. Students and clients are eager to explore the questions: What does the rule of law mean? What does it mean to have decision-making open to scrutiny? What does judicial review look like? 

This is not on the left or right. Big questions have a valence right now.

This article is part of a larger story on legal trends that was published in the May issue of Oregon Business.