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As Law School Tuitions Climb, So Does Demand

Some law schools retool curricula to keep the value of a J.D. strong.

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Employment statistics are not taken into serious consideration, Calderón adds, because his board is not supplied with raw data.

"Perhaps we should," he says. "But the question is, where do we get it and can we trust who's giving it to us?" 

Escalating tuition prices in a troubled market, spurred onward by generous student loans and students who are not fully committed to the profession, is a dangerous bubble that may well burst, Indiana University—Bloomington's Henderson says.

"I'm trying to separate the value of the legal education from the signaling value that's driving the bubble," Henderson said. "The trends are clearly unsustainable." 

Schools like Henderson's Indiana are retooling parts of the legal education. That institution, for example, has implemented a team-based first-year curriculum and professors are strengthening relationships with employers, Henderson says. Arizona State University law school has launched the Legal Education in the Future Tense curriculum, which includes 25 new initiatives that aim to "not be like every law school has been since the 1800's," says Dean Paul Schiff Berman. ASU law students can participate in hands-on clinics, public policy think tank experiences and more global opportunities, Berman says. 

"I think the only solution to this is to make sure that [if] we're charging $150,000, the skills that we impart have to map onto the job demand," Henderson says.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, law school officials unanimously voiced continued support for ambitious students choosing a legal education, especially when curricula embrace the changing tides of the professional market.

Says Arizona State's Berman, "I think that law school remains a great investment because of the kinds of analytical skills law school teaches—whether you end up practicing at a law firm, or going into business, or going into government."


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