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Legal education, opportunity, and bottlenecks

Lea Shaver

Associate ProfessorLea Shaver taught at Yale Law School and Hofstra Law School before joining the IU McKinney School of Law faculty in 2012. She holds a J.D. From Yale Law School and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. Professor Shaver was a summer clerk to Hon. David F. Hamilton and a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa, where she supported litigation advancing the constitutional rights to housing, education, and water. Her research focuses on intellectual property, innovation, access, and human rights.

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2 Responses

  1. Lea Shaver says:

    Of course, there is another dimension too that legal education is not only about the opportunities for would-be lawyers, but also about serving the would-be clients in ways that enhance social opportunity. That’s another point at which we have to think about the opportunity structure of legal education? Are we doing a good job of enabling our graduates to serve the people most in need?

  2. Joey Fishkin says:

    This is a great area to apply the idea of opportunity pluralism & bottlenecks from my book. Since you’ve especially invited comments, here are two quick thoughts:

    1. I have a sense, although this is not based on any inside knowledge of my or any other school’s practices, that merit aid in law schools (as compared to merit aid at undergraduate institutions) has moved even further along in pressing us toward a new regime in which it’s not really the yes-or-no admissions decision that makes the most difference for a large number of applicants — it’s the price tag (how much aid). Institutions have huge incentives to spend their aid budgets on competing for higher-credentialed students. Ultimately this reinforces the class bottleneck, for reasons I discuss in the last chapter of the book (in the context of college, not law school).

    2. I also wonder about a related question: should we think of the J.D. degree, and bar passage, itself as a bottleneck? Increasingly, I think so. I am thinking, here, of definitions of what constitutes the “practice of law,” such that a person without a law degree who does that thing is violating prohibitions against the unauthorized practice of law. There are a lot of intriguing proposals out there for expanding the range of law-related services that one is allowed to provide without a J.D. or bar passage I’m increasingly convinced that some reforms of this kind could usefully provide a way around the J.D. / bar passage bottleneck, allowing people to create enterprises that provide (certain kinds of) law-related services without “practicing law.”

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