Legal Education

“Public Interest Drift” in Law School

Do law students “drift” away from public-interest career goals during law school? This widely discussed “public interest drift” has been framed as a pervasive and distressing problem both for social justice causes and for the self-realization of aspiring public-interest lawyers. The dominant explanation in the literature suggests that students are converted from public-interest idealists to amoral hired-guns for any cause through an intensive socialization in the Socratic 1L classroom. However, this view has largely drawn on anecdotal evidence and polemical perspectives.

Bliss’ research was featured in the March 2016 issue of The Practice

CLP Research Fellow presents the first systematic empirical study of students’ identity-processes and job-path orientations throughout the law school timeline.Drawing on an innovative five-year multi-method qualitative research design consisting of interviews, ethnography, and identity mapping in an elite-school context, Bliss presents evidence that contradicts both fundamental premises of the dominant public-interest drift narrative: that first-year students tend to transition from set public-interest ambitions to set corporate-law ambitions; and that the 1L curriculum re-wires students’ orientations toward professional identity. Instead, Bliss argues that larger shifts in job and identity orientations occur in 2L.

Bliss’ data suggest that the narrative- and identity-work that students undergo during law-firm interviews leads them to reconstitute themselves in alignment with their often negative views of corporate lawyers. This revised socialization timeline suggests that legal education might not forcefully induce a widespread public interest drift. Nevertheless, Bliss’ research argues that these findings point to a sharp critique of the standard 1L curriculum for omitting an education in legal career paths and professional identity.

Read the research here.

The Future of Legal Education (Future Ed Series)

Future Ed is CLP’s research initiative examining various aspects of legal education reform. Law schools are facing enormous challenges as they attempt to prepare students for a rapidly changing legal market. Globalization and technological advances are providing new opportunities for the legal profession, while at the same time many legal employers are hiring far fewer graduates than in the past. How should lawyers be trained in this dramatically new environment? What trends are likely to be temporary, and what changes may be permanent? The Center seeks to explore these cutting-edge issues while simultaneously engaging historical pedagogical debates and theories and exploring innovation regarding how lawyers should best be trained for the profession.


From the deeply critical 2007 Carnegie Foundation report on the state of American law schools to the dramatic effects of the recent recession on law student placement and overall legal practice, law schools are scrambling to predict and position themselves within a rapidly changing market. Few clients are willing to pay for the professional development of law firm associates yet they expect and rely on quality training for outside legal teams and in-house recruits. Outside the U.S., systems of legal education in places like India, China and Brazil are also in tremendous flux, burdened by myriad challenges to bar professionalism and commerce-enabling rule of law but also filled with fascinating and potentially transformational entrepreneurship and experimentation. Objective information and systemic thought leadership on how to address these challenges and evolutionary dynamics are scarce and the Center seeks to fill this void.

We must fundamentally reconsider the Langdell model of legal education pioneered at HLS itself nearly a century ago and explore the most promising models for delivering education and training in the coming decades. We must critically examine innovations already taking place in different markets and settings around the world and then extract best practices and adapt them to suit the changing realities of the profession—and academia. In planning how we get there from here, we must (at a minimum) formulate achievable initiatives for reform, respond to the evolutionary dynamics of modern legal practice, and promote core values such as improved diversity and global rule of law.

Center faculty and fellows will continue to conduct research and produce scholarship and action plans on various aspects of legal education reform. We are committed to study and thought leadership that transcends traditional thinking about law school challenges. For example, how might alternative law school admissions criteria or structural innovations such as law schools ‘without walls’ change the financial burdens, diversity and early professional opportunities of entering lawyers? How can we better provide ‘cradle to grave’ legal education, mentoring and professional development opportunities for lawyers? What effects will the advent of expensive private law schools and spreading use of LSAT-style admissions testing in foreign jurisdictions of the sort so deeply criticized in the U.S. have on the diversity and career development of the bar in those countries and on multinational practice? How might the interactions between legal education systems in emerging markets and public sector regulatory bodies influence local innovation policies and the adoption of core rule of law values?

We anticipate that our activities in this area will culminate in publishable research articles and white papers including concrete proposals for reform, as well as conferences and other collaborative events (including the FutureEd 2 conference featured in Section C below) that will further focus our work in this area and set the stage for fully developed and pioneering legal education reform initiatives that could be rolled out in conjunction with HLS’ 200th anniversary in 2017, if not before.

The Series

New York Law School and Harvard Law School hosted a year-long contest of ideas about legal education in 2010. The goal was to come up with operational alternatives to the traditional law school business model and to identify concrete steps for the implementation of new designs. The kickoff event was a two-day conference for educators, employers, and regulators at New York Law School on April 9-10, 2010, to identify problems, innovations and constraints, and to organize working groups to develop designs and strategies for implementation. Working groups refined their ideas and reconvened for a second meeting at Harvard Law School on October 15-16, 2010.

FutureEd 3 was held at New York Law School on April 15-16, 2011.


On October 15 and 16, 2010, the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession hosted FutureEd 2: Making Lawyers for the 21st Century. Legal scholars, practitioners and regulators from around the world gathered in Cambridge to discuss the evolution and future of legal education, and to present proposals for change.

For more information about FutureEd 2, download the conference program.

Co-sponsored by:
Center for Professional Values and Practice
Institute for Information Law and Policy
New York Law School

Conference Videos (Friday)

Friday, October 15, 2010: THEORY AND CONTEXT

Welcome and Introduction

Elizabeth Chambliss, New York Law School Center for Professional Values & Practice
David Wilkins, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession

Global Perspectives on Legal EducationWatch video here.
Yves Dezalay, Legal sociologist at French CNRS research center
Daniel H. Foote, University of Tokyo
C. Raj Kumar, Dean of Jindal Global Law School, India
Ary Oswaldo Mattos Filho, Dean of FGV law school, São Paulo
Zhang Qi, Peking University Law School
Moderator: William Alford, Harvard Law School

Cross-Professional ComparisonWatch video here.
Jules Dienstag, Dean of Medical Education, Harvard Medical School
Rakesh Khurana, Harvard Business School
Chris McKenna, Novak Druce Center for PSFs, Oxford Business
Andrew von Nordenflycht, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
Moderator: Ashish Nanda, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession

Keynote Address – Watch video here.
Chris Kenny, CEO, U.K. Legal Services Board

The Regulators Weigh InWatch video here.
Walter Jones, U.S. Rep. to African Development Bank
Sophia Sperdakos, Policy Counsel, Law Society of Upper Canada
Stephen Zack, President, American Bar Association
Moderator: Todd Rakoff, Harvard Law School

Globalization, Lawyers and Emerging Economies—A Theoretical SynthesisWatch video here.
Luciana Gross Cunha, FGV Law School, São Paulo
Marc Galanter, Wisconsin Law School
Sida Liu, Wisconsin Law School
Fabio de Sá e Silva, IPEA research center, Brasilia; Northeastern University
David Trubek, Wisconsin Law School
David Wilkins, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession
Moderator: Mark Wu, Harvard Law School

Keynote Address – Watch video here.
Martha Minow, Dean, Harvard Law School

Proposals for Reform and Conference Videos (Saturday)

Saturday, October 16, 2010: PROPOSALS FOR REFORM

Professional Development Proposals – Watch video here.
Moderator: William Lee, Co-Managing Partner of WilmerHale

Internationalization and Post-J.D. Executive Education—The Bucerius Model
Birte Gall, Bucerius Law School, Germany

Teaching Decision-Making in Law Schools: Promotion of Experimentation; Collection, Analysis and Dissemination of Materials; Creation of an Organization to Encourage Decision-Making Pedagogy in Law School Curricula
Michael Kelly, Former Dean, University of Maryland School of Law

A Time of Transition: The Need for Capstone Courses in American Legal Education
Lisa Kloppenberg, James Durham, Eric Chaffee, Lori Shaw, University of Dayton School of Law

Models for Forming Partnerships Between Legal Educators and Legal Practitioners
Christine Mooney, Villanova University School of Law; Rachel Littman, Pace Law School

The “Identification, Development, and Validation of Predictors for Successful Lawyering” Report and its Potential Relevance to Law School Admissions, Legal Education/Pedagogy and Bar/Professional Licensing Exams
David Oppenheimer and Kristen Holmquist, University of California Berkeley School of Law

Outcome Assessment Rocks!! Shifting from an Input to an Output Approach in Legal Education
Lori Shaw; University of Dayton School of Law; Brannon Denning, Henry (“Corky”) Strickland, Howard Walthall, Samford University Cumberland School of Law

Building Professional Collaborations: A Law-Business-Employer Team Model at Northeastern University School of Law
Emily Spieler, Susan Maze Rothstein, Martha Davis, Northeastern University School of Law

A Transactional Skills Curriculum for a New Century: The Need to Incorporate Practical Business and Transactional Skills Training into the Curricula of America’s Law Schools
Tina Stark, Emory University School of Law; Eric Chaffee, University of Dayton School of Law

“Cradle to Grave” Professional Development
David Wilkins and Cory Way, Harvard Law School

Technology-Related Proposals (video is currently unavailable)
Moderator: Milton Regan, Georgetown Law Center for Study of the Legal Profession

The Millennium Law School: Building Technology and Innovation into the Legal Education Framework
Barbara Bernier, Florida A&M University College of Law

“Blended Course” Project—Creating, Developing, Teaching and Evaluating One Basic/Core Law School Course in a Blended Learning Format
Barry Currier, Concord Law School of Kaplan University

Distance Learning Innovations in Legal Education
Larry Farmer and Vance Everett, Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School; Matt Gardner & Grace D’Alo, Penn State Dickinson School of Law; Allison Rice and Wayne Miller, Duke Law School; Greg Clinton, North Carolina Central Law School; Will Monroe, Louisiana State University Paul M. Herbert Law Center; Megan Welch, Legal Practitioner; Herve Depow and Ellen Zweibel, University of Ottawa Law School; Bob Seibel, California Western School of Law

Standardized Clients and SIMPLE (SIMulated Professional Learning Environment): Learning Professionalism through Simulated Practice
John Garvey, University of New Hampshire School of Law and Paul Maharg, Northumbria University, U.K.

Comprehensive Review of Distance Learning Potential
Oliver Goodenough, Mike McCann,and Rebecca Purdom, Vermont Law School

Law Learning by Building Software Applications
Marc Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems; Oliver Goodenough, Vermont Law School; Brian Donnelly, Columbia Law School; Brock Rutter, State of Vermont/Berkman Center; Blair Janis, Wealth Counsel and BYU Law School; David Johnson, New York Law School; John Mayer, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction; Larry Farmer, BYU Law School; Richard Grant, MyCounsel; Ron Staudt, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Legal OnRamp: Grand Rounds – Proxy Ramp Demonstration Project
Nicholas Spindler and Mariko Gaines, New York Law School ’11; Paul Lippe, Legal OnRamp; Howard Meyers, New York Law School; Tanina Rostain, New York Law School

Law Practice Simulation
David Johnson, Center for Democracy and Technology and Tanina Rostain, New York Law School

Structural/Regulatory Proposals – Watch video here.
Moderator: Elizabeth Chambliss, New York Law School Center for Professional Values & Practice

Law Without WallsTM: Evloving Legal Education and Practice
Michele DeStefano Beardslee, University of Miami School of Law

The Future of Legal Education 2.0
William Byrnes, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Are We Making a Difference? Developing Outcome Measures to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Law School Efforts to Teach Ethics and Develop Professionalism
William Henderson, Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Jerome Organ, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Patrick Longan, Mercer University School of Law; John Berry, Florida Bar; Clark Cunningham, Georgia State University

Proposal for Accelerating Acquisition of a Law Degree
Rick Matasar, New York Law School

Washington & Lee University Law School’s Experiential Third Year Curriculum
Jim Moliterno, Washington & Lee University School of Law

ABA Accreditation Standards Should be Revised to Prohibit Merit Scholarships in Excess of 10% of a Law School’s Total Expenditures for Financial Aid
Thomas Morgan, George Washington University School of Law

A Proposal to Develop an SEC-Style Disclosure Model to Promote Greater Transparency by Law Schools Regarding Information Relating to “Investment” in Legal Education
Jerome Organ, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM): Specializing in Business Law
Archana Sridhar and Jane Kidner, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Public Sphere Proposals – Watch video here.
Moderator: Erik Ramanathan, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession

Bridging Theory and Practice in the Education of Future Public Interest Lawyers
Nisha Agarwal, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; Jocelyn Simonson, Bronx Defenders, Inc.; Benjamin Hoffman, and Toby Merrill, Harvard Law School ’11

Canadian Clinical Legal Education Conference and Founding Meeting of the Canadian Association for Clinical Legal Education
Doug Ferguson, University of Western Ontario

The Legal Bridges Project
Dennis Greene, University of Dayton School of Law

Partnering Universities and Local Lawyers to Engage in Public Interest Lawyering: The Case of the African Legal Support Facility
Innocent Enga Kameni, University of Pretoria and Harvard Law School

Public Service Venture Fund
Alexa Shabecoff, Harvard Law School and Earl Phalen, Reach Out and Read

Keynote Address – Watch video here.
Laura Stein, General Counsel of Clorox; ACC Value Challenge
with remarks by:
William Robinson, III, President-Elect of the American Bar Association
David Wilkins, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession

Working Group Moderator Reports – Watch video here.

Concluding Remarks and Future Plans
David Wilkins, Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession
Elizabeth Chambliss, NYLS Center for Professional Values & Practice



News Articles

China, India, Japan grapple with the quality of legal education
by Karen Sloan
National Law Journal
October 15, 2010

Consensus emerging that law school model ‘is not sustainable’
by Karen Sloan
National Law Journal
October 20, 2010

FutureEd 2: A major conference explores the effects of globalization on legal education
Harvard Law Today
January, 2011

Short Video

Harvard Law School interviewed several of the organizers and key speakers at FutureEd 2.
[Watch video]

PLP Blue Papers

Legal Education for the Future: Global Perspectives
By Daniel H. Foote

This manuscript by Daniel H. Foote is a report on the FutureEd 2 conference on the future of legal education held in October of 2010 at Harvard Law School. The essay originally was written for a Japanese audience and was first published in Japan.
[Download the paper]

Simple Questions, Multiple Answers: Keynote Address to the FutureEd 2 Conference at Harvard Law School
by Chris Kenny

This manuscript by Chris Kenny, chief executive of the UK Legal Services Board, is based on a keynote address delivered at the FutureEd 2 conference on the future of legal education held in October of 2010 at Harvard Law School. You can view a video of this speech here.
[Download the paper]

Making Global Lawyers for the 21st Century: Keynote Address to the FutureEd 2 Conference at Harvard Law School
by Martha L. Minow

This manuscript by Harvard Law School Dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor Martha Minow is based on a keynote address delivered at the FutureEd 2 conference, held in October of 2010 at Harvard Law School.
[Download the paper]

Educating the Digital Lawyer E-Book

One of the outputs from the FutureEd process is the e-book Educating the Digital Lawyer, edited by Oliver Goodenough and Marc Lauritsen and published by LexisNexis. You may access a complimentary copy of the volume in the e-book format here.


Citation, Research & Accountability Practices Across India

Lead by CLP affiliate, Rohit Pothukuchi, the study is a first of its kind effort to examine practices, trends, and patterns surrounding legal citation across India. The research aims to identify varied legal citation systems used across the nation and consequently, problems arising out of non-uniform citation practices across courts and law schools. The study also focuses on the connection between a lack of citation understanding amongst lawyers and accountability in legal research in India.

To learn more about this project, please contact Rohit Pothukuchi.

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