Written by Joanna Hughes

Two thousand eighteen was a good year for law schools: they enjoyed an eight percent increase in applications, reversing an ongoing trend in the process. Law.com recently sat down with the new president of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), Vicki Jackson.

What’s her take on the increased interest in legal education and issues law schools should be working on? Here’s a closer look at the interview.

Explaining the Uptick in Interest

While Jackson attributed increased interest in legal education to be a “multifactor phenomenon,” she highlighted one contributing issue. “I think many of the incoming students who I have gotten to know see going to law school as a way to be effective agents for change. It’s probably only part of the picture, but an important part,” she told Law.com.

Jackson also expressed her excitement about the culture of law schools, and the “tremendous state of innovation, public service, and pro bono work that is going on in law schools across the country.”  

Key Themes for 2019

In revealing her theme for the year for AALS, “Pillars of Democracy: Law, Representation, and Knowledge,” Jackson identified rising challenges and their solutions. “I want to talk about the central role of lawyers in building and sustaining American constitutional democracy. [...] The three pillars I want to talk about: law, elections and a fair system of representation and what I call ‘knowledge institutions,’ all face an array of challenges. They all need work from lawyers and law faculty to move forward in a healthy way in the future,” asserted Jackson.

According to Jackson, faculty members are positioned to lead in this movement both through their scholarship and teaching -- especially as it relates to elections and representation.

And while she praises the focus devoted to evaluating judicial appointments, she suggests the scope of this could be broader. “When it comes to other constitutional actors -- elected representatives, the president, the state governors, the state legislators -- we have had much less to say about how to evaluate their work. That seems to be an area that would benefit from more scholarly work and more engagement with our students,” Jackson concludes.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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