90 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 615 (2015)
Crisis and Trigger Warnings: Reflections on Legal Education and the Social Value of the Law

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     CRISIS AND TRIGGER WARNINGS: REFLECTIONS ON LEGAL
        EDUCATION AND THE SOCIAL VALUE OF THE LAW

                            KIM D. CHANBONPN*

                               INTRODUCTION
     The news about law schools is bad. College graduates are being dis-
couraged from attending because most will exit with significant debt load
and no guarantee that they will be able to obtain employment profitable
enough to offset the investment in their education. Because fewer students
are seeking admittance and class sizes are shrinking, tuition-dependent law
schools are facing a financial crisis. In response, crisis managers have
proferred solutions steeped in the buzzwords of neoliberal economic poli-
cies. Austerity, consumer-oriented servicing, and other corporate tropes
have lately become the new norms in law school management. However,
the superficial logic of these policies belies the radical restructuring of legal
education currently taking place, as well as, I argue, a broader assault on
the law's central role in promoting social goods.
     The prevailing law school crisis narrative is peopled with the follow-
ing cast of stock characters: crusading administrators, recalcitrant faculty,
and disillusioned students. Administrators who struggle to rein in spending
on faculty salaries and other fixed costs. Faculty who are uninterested in
change, preferring instead to write esoteric scholarship and to teach using
the same methods first introduced by Harvard's Dean Langdell in 1890.
And students who face bleak employment prospects upon graduation, and
are desperate to learn only what they might need to pass the bar exam and
to launch, practice-ready, into the working world. According to the prevail-
ing crisis narrative, each group represents mutually exclusive and opposi-
tional interests.
     However crude these archetypes, tensions between faculty and stu-
dents exist and are exacerbated by highly-stylized classroom interactions
mediated by the Socratic dialogue. In this environment, students often ex-
perience performance-related stress, embarrassment, and frustration. These

* Associate Professor, The John Marshall Law School. My thanks to Blair Pooler and Mary Lu Cole,
two of my former Criminal Law students, for their research assistance. I would also like to thank Pro-
fessor Francisco Valdes for providing his helpful comments on a draft of this Essay.

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