Disruptive Innovation and the Future of Legal Education — Clay Christensen Institute’s Michelle Weise to Deliver Address at AALS Clinical Conference

As legal education faces new challenges in preparing students for law practice and rethinking the lawyer’s role in society, this year’s AALS Clinical Conference, “Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change,” will focus on the central questions: What is the New Normal? How Should Clinicians Respond to the New Normal? What is the Future of the New Normal?

I am excited to introduce Michele Weise, a Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (CCI), as the speaker for the third theme.  A former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford, Michelle Weise served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Fidelis Education, a professor at Skidmore College, and an instructor at Stanford.

In 2014, Ms. Weise co-authored a book with Clayton Christensen, titled Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, about how online competency-based education will revolutionize the workforce and disrupt higher education. Ms. Weise’s commentaries and research have been featured in a number of publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Boston Globe, Inside HigherEd, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and USA Today.

The Clay Christensen Institute, ranked in the Thinkers 50 in 2013, is the world’s leading think tank on disruptive innovation. “Disruptive innovation” takes a problem, applies a different set of values to solve the problem, and creates a new market that ultimately overtakes an existing market. Recently, CCI has studied how changes in technology or business models impact industries such as education and health care.

Michele Weise is one of the three main speakers at the conference.  In her talk, Ms. Weise will help the audience to understand the theory of disruption and how it relates not only to our own role as clinical professors, but also to outside changes impacting legal education. We see clinical education itself as a form of “disruptive innovation” within the legal academy. Our values and methods now stand ready to overtake and profoundly transform legal education, creating a “new normal.” At the same time, we face the prospect that other innovations (in technology and in law practice) will disrupt us, our schools and legal education as a whole. As part of a focus on the “new normal,” we see a strong need to assess how onrushing innovations in technology and practice will transform our clinics and our schools. I believe that, as a speaker, Michelle Weise offers an important opportunity and perspective for the clinical community and by extension, the legal academy.

Speaking personally, as a student of the CCI’s theories for the last few years, I have found it very helpful to have a broader framework in which to analyze what is happening in legal education. Indeed, my recent article, No Path But One, is grounded in the theories of the CCI, as is another piece on which I am currently working. Others in the legal academy are also applying the CCI’s disruption theory ideas to legal education. See:



At this critical time in legal education, I think it is important for the legal academy to understand the “why” behind the changes that are happening around us. Ms. Weise will help us as we begin to understand why higher education is changing and provoke us all to think about how we can prepare for the coming years.

The AALS conference will take place in Rancho Mirage, CA from May 3-7, 2015. Registration for the conference can be found here.

I hope to see you there!

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