Daniel B. Rodriguez, the estimable Dean of Northwestern Law School, recently asked how to reform the stuffy American Association of Law Schools. The AALS is comprised of 170 law schools with the mission of improving the legal profession through improving legal education. It also represents the interests of law schools with the federal government.
Given that tens of thousands of law grads are unemployed and existing students face no real job prospects, it's not a bad question whether the AALS has any plans for change.
At PrawfsBlawg, Rodriguez wrote:
"While I suppose this question is the rough equivalent of putting a 'kick me' sign on my shirt, let me press ahead nonetheless and ask this:
What are your good ideas for the AALS as an organization going forward, especially in these remarkably difficult times for legal education? I have the opportunity to play a leadership role in the association for the next little while (being nominated as president-elect at the upcoming annual meeting). My sense is that we can do much better as a group in furthering the myraid objectives of the law professoriate. Moreover, I would like to use my (small) bully pulpit to advance objectives that are critical to our collective future."
He got an earful, to put it mildly. While one professor asked (we hope in jest) to bring back the shoulder bag given at prior conferences, others seriously took up the crisis in legal education.
Professor Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA wrote, "the best thing we could do with the AALS is to disband it."
"I can't think of one useful thing the AALS does except to provide a massive schmooze fest for faculty to network at taxpayer and student expense. And while that's fun, it doesn't justify the organization's existence."
James Grimmelmann of New York Law School noted that the "AALS is astonishingly bureaucratic, even by the standards of academe. It does little of substance, and what it does do, it does at ridiculous cost. The best thing that AALS can do for legal education is find ways to bring down the cost of legal education by reducing the effective tax that AALS imposes on law schools."
"Jimbino" offered the following list aimed at reducing the cost of law school to improve legal education and the profession:
"1. Eliminate bar certification altogether as Milton Friedman advocated, or
2. Permit a person to take the bar after first year law.
3. Put more classes online that lead directly to certification.
4. Get rid of expensive libraries. It's nuts for law schools to compete for the largest library, when all of them could be combined and made available to the entire world in one swell foop.
5. Get rid of tenure and other impediments to attracting and keeping good profs.
6. Have profs offer their courses on eBay and let students bid for seats with their tuition dollars, as has historically been the European custom. A little competition would improve all schooling immensely."