(1) Brian Tamanaha's acerbic take on this issue, which points out that, for the present at least, law schools are "doing just fine, thank you." It's only when one considers the situation faced by our recent graduates, well more than half of whom either don't have real legal jobs at all, or have legal jobs that don't pay anywhere close to enough to service the debt they've incurred as a consequence of our skyrocketing operating costs, that one might get the idea that all is not for the best, in this the best of all possible legal academic worlds.
(2) Bill Henderson's cold-blooded analysis of the long-term structural changes in the market for legal services, that helps explain why the situation Tamanaha describes has come about, and why those changes will eventually require law schools to make major, as opposed to cosmetic, changes in the way they operate. Henderson points out that there are enormous inertial barriers to such changes:
Institutional change is extraordinarily difficult. But I think it is extra hard for law schools. Law faculty have little or no experience making high stakes business decisions, yet we control curriculum and appointments, which are the areas that need major rethinking. Talk is cheap--and we specialize in talk. Like any other industry undergoing structural change, we need to objectively assess our situation and be prepared to take decisive action despite painful tradeoffs and imperfect information. For law faculty, our biggest risk factors are indecision and denial.Henderson argues that clients are shifting the cost of training lawyers onto firms, who in turn will find ways to put pressure on law schools to train people to be lawyers. While this demand may seem outrageous on its face -- are we not meant for nobler tasks than mere vocational training? -- Henderson suggests that economic necessity will force most law schools, if only slowly and painfully, to surrender some of their more elaborate and expensive academic pretensions, despite the extent to which we've fallen in love with the flattering self-image those pretensions provide us (Nietzsche: "A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.").
Henderson has a gift for asking the kind of simple, straightforward question whose answer is both so obvious and so disturbing that it never gets asked by those who should be asking it. For example: "In the year 2011, should the heavily indebted federal government underwrite the record production of law school graduates?" And he points out that we law professors should be asking lawyers and law students these sorts of questions, rather than each other.