I’m not here this week; instead, I’m heading out to California to the ABA annual meeting. At the conference, the ABA will discuss the changing nature of legal education.
The ABA, and law schools in general, have been really slow to respond to the new realities of legal education. There’s institutional resistance to changing the way things have always been done.
Arguably, a company like BARBRI can be much more flexible in response to student needs. And, as many tipsters have told us over the past couple of weeks, BARBRI is making some changes. Which is kind of a nice way of saying that BARBRI laid off some people.
I recently spoke with BARBRI president Mike Sims about these moves…
Sims reports that BARBRI laid off around ten attorneys and some staff a few weeks ago. The displaced employees received what Sims terms a “very generous” severance package.
Most of the layoffs stemmed from BARBRI closing smaller, regional offices in favor of beefing up operations in more central hubs. Ironically, Sims reports that BARBRI is actively hiring staff, attorneys, and professors in locations that are staffing up.
Sims said that these moves are part of his vision for BARBRI’s future:
The BARBRI course [we] took years ago is very different from what it is today… The seven week classic post-graduate prep course, those days are probably numbered. What you’re going to see is a BARBRI that is embedded into legal education — BARBRI that is there first day of law school through the bar exam and beyond.
As the company works towards achieving that kind of model, Sims argued that bigger offices that can provide more services make more sense than smaller offices everywhere.
I also asked Sims if that was because students are coming out of law school differently — perhaps less prepared — than in past years. Sims rejected the suggestion that students where less prepared than before; instead, he said that they expected different things, like more online learning, instant availability from instructors, and an ability to access whatever they want, whenever they want it.
That seems right when you look at what this generation is used to. When I took BARBRI, I had to walk to the lectures, uphill, both ways, during the fresh July snow. Okay, that’s not true. But I did have to “go” to a “lecture” instead of “sit” in my “underwear” while a teaching assistant answered my personal questions I submitted on my iPad.
I’m sure the laid-off BARBRI personnel would say, “I can use a smartphone!” Making a shift like this is going to create winners and losers.
But BARBRI exists in a competitive market that functions properly. They have to compete for students — students who don’t have an unlimited ability to borrow money for their services. That forces BARBRI to actually respond to student concerns.
Law schools do not have to worry themselves with such petty concerns like “providing value to their customers.”
(Disclosure: BARBRI is an Above the Law advertiser.)