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Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series


economics, law, Schumpeter, creative destruction, lawyers, law schools, legal education, jobs, job loss, disappearing middle class, shrinking law employment, law school debt, Artificial Intelligence, apps, computer applications and software in law, robotics and job displacement, future of work


The analysis offered here is not a Neo-Luddite rage against “the machine.” As with the oft-stated reproach about paranoia, there sometimes really are situations in which people are “out to get you.” In our current situation the threat is not from people but from the convergence of a set of technological innovations that are and will increasingly have an enormous impact on the nature of work, economic and social inequality and the existence of the middle classes that are so vital to the durability of Western democracy. The fact is that developed nations’ economies such as found in Western Europe and the US are facing a convergence of technologies that fit into Joseph Schumpeter’s idea of “creative destruction” but without the “creative” phase of economic rebirth. The forces and technologies pushing us in this direction are relentless. In a globalized market economy where power and authority are dispersed across borders with nations holding incompatible interests and agendas and policy dictated by unaccountable multilateral institutions we lack the ability to impose limits on what is occurring even if we wanted to. This discussion is only peripherally about law schools and lawyers. Those two institutions are nothing more than derivative manifestations of what is occurring in our larger systems rather than the drivers or creators of economic and political forces. As US law schools experience a dramatic downward shift in applications and enrollments, concerned and increasingly panicked law faculties at many institutions are looking in the wrong direction and at the wrong factors in trying to determine their future. This is because anyone attempting to tease out strategies by which we can adapt to economic change by designing positive plans of action based on past cycles and workplace conditions is chained to a bench in Plato’s Cave — mistaking flickering shadows for concrete reality.

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