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ERIC Number: ED568678
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Mar
Pages: 29
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Disrupting Law School: How Disruptive Innovation Will Revolutionize the Legal World
Pistone, Michele R.; Horn, Michael B.
Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation
Facing dramatic declines in enrollment, revenue, and student quality at the same time that their cost structure continues to rise and public support has waned, law schools are in crisis. A key driver of the crisis is shrinking employment opportunities for recent graduates, which stem in part from the disruption of the traditional business model for the provision of legal services. Although this root problem will soon choke off the financial viability of many schools, most law schools remain unable or unwilling to address this existential problem in more than a marginal way, as they instead prefer to maintain the status quo and hope that the job market soon improves. This is a strategy of attrition. By fixing their gaze on maintaining prestige in their juris doctor (JD) degree programs, law schools and their administrators run the risk of overlooking the longer-term impact that the disruption of traditional legal services businesses will have on the provision of legal services and, in turn, on law schools themselves. This is happening at the same time as disruption is primed to take place in legal education itself. As we have seen in industry after industry, disruptive innovations change sectors in ways that do not allow for a return to the status quo. Instead, the changes that disruptive innovations bring are so fundamental that entire products or services are marginalized or, in some cases, even displaced, never to return again. The theory of disruptive innovation suggests that the traditional law school model is breaking apart at its seams. The collapse is so fundamental that law schools cannot circumvent it by improving the financial performance of endowment investments, tapping wealthy donors more effectively, or collecting more tax dollars from the public. They need a new model. The only question is whether law schools will react in time or whether new institutions aggressively using scalable, competency-based online programs will do so instead--and ultimately grow to replace today's traditional institutions. Law schools can survive. But in order to do so they must recognize that competition will come from outside the industry--from institutions that are not currently even on their radar screen and that are not encumbered by concerns about traditional ranking and prestige. After recognizing the threat, to survive and thrive, law schools must then reframe this moment as an opportunity to stop chasing prestige for its own sake and start creating disruptive educational models themselves.
Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. 425 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063. Tel: 650-887-0788; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation