The end of the calendar year is traditionally a time for reflection on what has happened over the course of the last twelve months. For the law school reform movement, it's been an eventful and on the whole very successful time.
When looking back to the beginnings of this blog, it's striking the extent to which its central propositions -- that the contemporary American law school is based on an unsustainable economic model, which is producing something from seriously unacceptable to genuinely life-wrecking results for far too many law graduates, and that law schools have blinded themselves to this, and hidden it from the outside world -- have had their status transformed from outrageous and irresponsible exaggerations, to something approaching conventional wisdom.
Consider this recent post by Dan Rodriguez, dean of an elite law school, on Prawfsblawg. Note how it accepts implicitly that the status quo is in some fundamental way unacceptable, and that, tellingly, it references unambiguously radical critiques of legal education in a non-pejorative way. (When the word "radical" is used in a non-pejorative sense by reformists, the radicals have won a very important semantic battle). The point here is not to agree or disagree with Rodriguez's specific recommendations, but rather to recognize the extent to which the implicit narrative frame within which those recommendations are put forth is one that takes it for granted that law schools, even elite ones, cannot carry on with business as usual.
How and why has this happened? The obvious answer is that Dean Rodriguez can read both balance sheets and memos from his admissions staff (I don't know anything about Northwestern's situation in particular, but with law school applications year over year down 40% from where they were just three years ago, the particulars aren't what's important). In a remarkably short time, culturally speaking, the assertion that law school is a risky and too- often disastrous gamble has gone from a radical warning, spread via Internet samizdat by disaffected scambloggers, to something even (some) law school deans are beginning to accept as a starting point for discussions of reform.
A lot of people have helped make this happen, and I want to mention just a few of them here, in no particular order (apologies in advance for many unjustifiable omissions):
On the blogs:
In the media:
In legal academia:
Edit: The problem with tossing off lists like this is the danger of a truly absurd omission, i.e., I failed to mention Kyle McEntee, Patrick Lynch and Derek Tokaz, aka Law School Transparency, who ought to get some sort of category all to themselves.
Feel free to use the comments to point out similarly egregious oversights.
Although in a sense we are only at the very beginning of the law school reform process, in another sense we are at the end of the beginning -- since the first and most crucial step in any such process is to make the need for serious reform no longer a seriously contestable question. That step has been taken, and it's something to celebrate.