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U.S. law schools increasingly are forming organizational alliances with other training providers in the interests of market expansion and/or consolidation. At the top of the market, U.S. law schools are seeking to brand their positions within the global economy by forming alliances with elite foreign law schools, business schools, and corporate law firms and clients. Schools outside of this market are moving to establish alternative niches through alliances with solo and small firm practitioners, CLE providers, and other organizations serving low-and middle-income clients, as well as through the development of accelerated and/or specialty degrees. Schools at all levels are increasingly emphasizing the “practical” (i.e., immediate market) value of the training they offer rather than the rigor or value of “professional” legal training per se.

This paper examines emerging alliances between U.S. law schools and other training providers and speculates about likely future patterns. It argues that law schools face increasing pressure to move away from their traditional strategy of diversification — providing a variety of specialized courses, clinics, concentrations, and degree programs within (or on top of) a formally unified J.D. curriculum — and toward strategies for institutional and market specialization. Formal organizational alliances are an increasingly important component of such strategies. Yet while there are many organizational partners for elite law schools serving global, corporate markets, there are fewer for law schools primarily serving local and consumer markets. Thus, law school alliances raise questions about the boundaries of unified legal education and, ultimately, the legal profession.