« on: June 21, 2012, 12:00:12 AM »
I got this from another forum, but it seemed appropriate for this discussion:
The traditional ABA system is in serious trouble right now. Law school costs more than ever, yet employment prospects for lawyers are worse than ever. More and more prospective students are weighing law school costs vs. legal the job market, and concluding that law school doesn't make sense any more. Law school applications are falling fast, and many ABA law schools are having serious trouble recruiting qualified students.
To fix this situation, ABA law schools need to do two things: (1) reduce the cost of legal education , and (2) reduce the number of JD graduates.
In theory, distance law schools could be a valid way to address point (1). But the problem is that they won't help with point (2). If you make law school more convenient and less expensive, then how does that reduce the number of graduates?
In theory, the way to address point (2) is by toughening the standards for legal education : make admissions harder (lower acceptance rates) and make completion harder (higher flunk-out rates). The standards will likely get tougher at B&M law schools in the future, and they would be equally tough at any future DL law schools.
So we may ultimately see ABA-approved DL law schools, because of point (1). But here's the catch: an ABA-accredited DL law school will not be an open-admission, no-LSAT-required kind of place, like the existing California distance law schools. On the contrary, admissions may be very competitive, and the programs may be difficult to complete.
If the number of qualified law school applicants continues to shrink, then we can make a pretty good guess as to what will happen. Some ABA-approved law schools will be forced to shrink. And some may have to close entirely.
Law school shrinkage is already happening. Law school closure hasn't happened yet. But if the current situation continues, then it's just a matter of time. And this may increase the interest in alternative law school models, like DL.
I happen to believe that there is a large untapped market out there for ABA-approved legal education by DL. Up to now, the ABA and their member law schools have completely ignored that market. But if their traditional business model collapses, and some law schools are starved for students, with their very survival at stake -- well, maybe then the potential DL market will be a lot harder to ignore.
But this is just speculation on my part. I'm sure that others may see it differently.