The University of New Hampshire Law Review


Greg Brandes


New and useful improvements – in the words of the patent statute – have emerged from legal education’s pursuit of seamlessly developing contributing members of the legal profession, as the 1992 MacCrate Report advocated. These include the widespread adoption of distance learning techniques for better teaching and assessment, course pedagogy that is more inclusive for students with diverse learning needs, and a new subset of the academy schooled and interested in the science of teaching and learning. But it has not been easy.

Efforts to improve legal education have sometimes foundered and other times flourished because of varying faculty and institutional cultures, economic and career incentives and disincentives, and the slowly evolving scheme of regulation within which innovation must proceed. Innovations such as the case method, the Socratic classroom, and final exams in law school courses were once controversial, and their adoption travails illuminate the challenges confronting modern legal education innovators. Then as now, cultures that insist upon pedagogical conformity confine creativity and inhibit innovation. Incentives rewarding hierarchies and the status quo are also mis-aligned with innovation. Faculties and programs that align tenure and promotion, pay, status, and institutional governance authority with age-old traditions are unlikely to innovate, even when change is clearly required to keep pace with evident best practices, student needs, and the expectations of the profession and regulators. Cautious regulation historically constrained innovation and progress in some ways, but is no longer a significant barrier to innovation.

Cultures and incentives that put students and learning first are more apt to test innovations, respond to opportunities, and adopt emerging best practices, and regulators are now aligned with these goals. This focus on students mirrors the call to action by the MacCrate Report authors all those years ago.

Repository Citation

22 U.N.H. L. Rev. 209 (2024).