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A hitchhiker’s guide to the crisis of legal education

Douglas Adams’s character from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Marvin, is a depressed android. He is constantly bored and morose. His personality can illustrate the feelings that the proclaimed crisis of legal education triggers. Legal education is in crisis. We are facing unprecedented challenges and we urgently need to reform law schools to face these contemporary needs. Or at least, this is the prevalent discourse today. It was also the prevalent discourse a generation ago, and a generation prior too, and since the beginning of university legal education in Canada. This perception of crisis has been a constant, cyclically coming back and haunting legal educators. This is not to say that there aren’t important challenges today, nor that there weren’t important ones in the past as well; there certainly are and were. It is striking to observe that despite such frequent calls to thorough reforms, the key characteristics of legal education in Canada have not budged much over time. Moreover, when there have been substantial changes in the field of legal education, they seem to have been the results of powerful forces outside of legal education or accidents along the way rather than concerted efforts by legal educators to achieve a better outcome. In short, legal education, by in large, has been reacting to social changes rather than leading it. It is this repetitive phenomenon that triggers depressed and morose feelings when the topic of the crisis of legal education comes back around once again.