WK Legal Education Leading Edge

Educating 21st Century Law Students


Leading Edge is thinking differently about Legal Education, and putting those thoughts into actionable strategies.

Beginning in early 2014, Wolters Kluwer Legal Education launched a new focus on helping innovators in legal education share their perspectives on the future of law school teaching and curriculum with a broad audience drawn from across the community.  Initially centered around the Leading Edge Conference, an annual gathering of legal education thought leaders looking to pool ideas and identify promising directions of exploration (see below for video snapshots of the 2014 and 2015 conferences), the program has now expanded to include a periodic report, the Legal Education Leading Edge Report. Based on extensive interviews and surveys with deans, professors, and other stakeholders in the community, the Leading Edge Report is intended to succinctly summarize many of the key areas of focus for law schools today seeking to evolve their teaching model to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century legal education. The first (2015) edition is now available for free download, or for purchase in a print edition.

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Third Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

July 11-13, 2016

Building on the prior success of the first two Leading Edge Conferences, the 3rd Annual Leading Edge Conference brought together 32 legal education thought leaders nationwide to discuss challenging issues facing legal education today and to brainstorm ways to address and overcome these challenges. Held on July 11-13, 2016 in our Riverwoods, Illinois complex, this "unconference” where the agenda is entirely driven by the attendees, addressed such challenges in the following sessions.


  1. Structuring Bloom’s Taxonomy for Legal Education
  2. Ultimate Death Match: Boomers vs. Millennials in a Law School Environment
  3. What 1 or 2 Skills, Activities, Experiences, or Courses Would You Like to See Made More Available (or Perhaps Even Required) and When?
  4. Law Students as Future Entrepreneurs
  5. The $10K JD
  6. Brainstorm! On Improving Entry-Level Employment Outcomes (Or, Adventures in Alliteration)
  7. Assumptions/Pre-conceived Notions that Faculty & Students Bring to Legal Education
  8. The Future of the Law School Within the University
  9. How Do We Prepare Future Lawmakers + Policy Makers Through Legal Education
  10. Keeping Legal Education Valuable: How to Get Here from There
  11. What Role Does the Bar Exam Play?
  12. Continued – Defense of Scholarship BUT Focus on What It Is and How to Measure


  1. Personal Autonomy and Professionalism (Law School as Profession or Liberal Art Education)
  2. Meaning of Practical Legal Education
  3. Developing Professional Judgment and Forming Professional Identity
  4. Changes in the Legal Profession – Looking Back, Looking Forward 25 Years
  5. I’m 55 and Tenured. What Now?
  6. Are We Teaching Students to Play Hockey When We Should Be Preparing Them for Disney on Ice?
  7. Pointing the Finger: Unprepared Students vs. Unprepared Law Schools
  8. The Future of Law Meets
  9. Learning Outcomes and Assessments Measures
  10. Entrepreneurship Across the Arc of Lawyering: Professoring, Learning, Lawyering, & Lawyering for Entrepreneurs
  11. How Do We Attract the Best and Brightest to Go to Law School (as Well as Diverse Candidates)?



Second Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

July 13-15, 2015

Twenty-five leading innovators in legal education came together at the cabin in our Riverwoods complex to discuss challenges in legal education and collaborate to develop solutions. Building on the success of the first annual Leading Edge conference (see below), this second edition added innovators and entrepreneurs from the business side of legal education to the law school professors and deans that constitute the conference’s core attendees.




  1. Changing demographics and bar passage realities
  2. What should the 2nd and 3rd year of law school look like?
  3. A modest proposal for the decriminalization of the part-time practice of law by tenure track faculty
  4. What might law schools learn from design thinking and the Stanford Design School
  5. Assumptions made by students and faculty in law school
  6. Designing post-law school “incubator” programs to bridge graduates to low-bono small/solo practice
  7. Kickstarts, Bootcamps, and other bridge programs: Preparing underprepared students for law school
  8. Carnegie integrated courses
  9. What do we know about undergraduate teaching and learning? Do we care? Should we care?
  10. Why experiential education? Exploring the conventional justifications and what they imply for all concerned


  1. Globalization and legal education overhyped? How impactful? Underappreciated?
  2. Demonstrating behavioral economics in reading and comprehension
  3. Can a law school be a graduate school – revenue degrees and mission
  4. Better student/faculty meeting: Promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose in law students
  5. Online education
  6. How to deal with difficult students?
  7. Should law schools be teaching for mastery?
  8. Law student survey: Mental health issues and the culture in law school.
  9. Managing change in the law school landscape



First Annual Student Leading Edge Conference

November 14-16, 2014

The first annual Leading Edge Student Conference brought together 20 remarkable law students for two and a half days of idea-sharing, informal networking, and high-energy brainstorming surrounding the core question of what legal education should look like in the 21st century. Topics ranged from legal education reform, to workplace preparation, to coping with the stresses of being a law student. Each attendee was able to share his or her own experiences and collaborate with students from other law schools on ideas to take back to their own context​.

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  1. Legal education reform: The role and function of law schools in the twenty-first century
  2. Technology tools in law schools
  3. The nontraditional route through law school
  4. Practical skills in law schools vs. theories
  5. Choosing to take bar classes in lieu of electives: Good strategy or pitfall?
  6. Re-evaluating law school evaluation
  7. Exams and software in the classroom
  8. The cost of legal education
  9. Socratic method: yay or nay? 
  10. The non-traditional law student
  11. Extra curricular activities: Waste of time or useful asset?
  12. Law school grades and their role in the hiring process
  13. Are summers enough? Evolving legal education for the current legal market


  1. Grading
  2. Value in law school
  3. Education programs that complement a JD
  4. Dealing with stress in law school
  5. The evolving law school: Training ground vs. academic center
  6. Reconstructing the current law school model
  7. Selecting law school classes
  8. Diversity in law school and the future of legal education
  9. What are law schools doing to ensure practical experiential learning?
  10. Self help to stay sane
  11. Honor codes and honor councils
  12. The law school bait and switch
  13. 1L: What would you do differently



First Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

July 14-16, 2014

Wolters Kluwer Legal Education invited 25 of the most well respected thought-leaders and innovators in legal education to attend the first annual WK Leading Edge conference and participate in three days of collaborative discussion and debate around the state of legal education.

As an “unconference,” the event did not have an agenda until participants collaboratively designed one the first evening.  This format was intended to facilitate open conversation and ensure that session time was focused around issues of genuine import for attendees. Attendees created 21 high-impact sessions all revolving around how law schools should turn today’s students into successful legal thinkers and practitioners.   

Leading Edge Single Video




  1. MOOC-Mania: How technology enhanced education is changing the face of higher education
  2. Dealing with faculty status issues during times of economic crisis
  3. Changing how we assess students
  4. What is legal ed for? What is its purpose? Who should be given it? Is it all about lawyering?
  5. What law schools can learn from architecture schools (the studio, the "crit," and more)
  6. The changing market for entry level employment for law graduates and its implications for the academy
  7. Gender in the Legal Academy
  8. The (somewhat dismal but not necessarily as bad as some say) state of legal education
  9. What makes a good casebook/course book (or do we need them at all?)
  10. Teaching millennials from the 19-century law curriculum, and assessing them, OR NOT
  11. Unbundling legal education: Should we open our doors to non-JD seekers? Should we increase advocacy to end monopoly on practice and allow non-lawyer assistance? What are the essential elements for a JD?


  1. How will changing demographics of law students impact law schools and the legal profession?
  2. Teaching "soft" skills in "hard" classes
  3. What the rest of the university can learn from the law school experience
  4. The big picture – 7 observations about legal education
  5. How mindset can promote change in legal education
  6. Solving the access to justice problem by reforming legal education
  7. The changing legal academy: Does one size fit all?
  8. Regulation with or without the ABA: Knowing your enemy
  9. Any impact of internationalization/globalization? Are we missing the boat? Or does it not matter?
  10. Law school degrees: NOT a J.D. or even a LL.M.
  11. 21st century classrooms – Designing spaces for active learning/flipped teaching
  12. Students as reluctant to see change: How to deal with this reluctance? Why is it happening?
  13. How should law schools be "forming" professional identity in a changing market