Aspen Publishing

Leading Edge is about building the future of Legal Education through collaboration, brainstorming, and innovation.

Leading Edge Conference

Aspen Publishing’s Annual Leading Edge Conference is a gathering of legal education thought leaders to discuss key issues facing legal education and to brainstorm actionable strategies. Launched in 2014 as an experiment in attendee-driven “unconferences,” Leading Edge has become a highly regarded gathering for the legal education community, with more than half of all law schools in the United States having participated. 

View the topics covered at the Leading Edge conferences over the past several years. The conference agenda is set by the attendees upon their arrival at the conference.

  • Ninth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2023

    We have returned to the Endicott MIT House in Dedham, Massachusetts for the 9th annual Leading Edge Conference on July 10-12, 2023. This year was filled with friendly conversations, inspiring sessions, and thoughtful brainstorming about the future of legal education.

    • How to best address various/conflicting interests of stakeholders?
    • (re)Designing the curriculum (especially the first year) to accomplish more/different things
    • Do students read and how can we help them to read well enough? / Building Education for a “divided” world: knowledge mastery, skills, and lifelong learning needs
    • The legal profession is likely to see profound changes, driven by AI, regulatory reform, and other factors. How do schools prepare students for an uncertain future?
    • Inclusive teaching/institutions: What is it? Can you be Socratic and inclusive? What happens when things go wrong?
    • Legal Ed by The Numbers – A quantum assessment of where we are lately to where we’re headed
    • Prepare for the advent of para-professor licensing: the role of law school and the impact on the legal market and legal education
    • Digital tools
    • Breaking down Hierarchy
    • Diversity trends in legal education
    • Student Wellbeing
    • Generating Teaching Tools/ Practice Skills Throughout Law School
    • Revitalizing Student Evaluations
    • How To Prepare Students for Law School
    • Alternative Realities & Hypersensitivities – What’s a Teacher or Administrator To Do?
    • Next Gen Bar Exam / Reforming Attorney Licensure
    • Doing More With Less and Less
    • Creating a syllabus
    • Accounting for/harnessing Chat GPT in legal education
    • How Law Schools Make Decisions/Best Practices and How to use Data to Inform our Decisions
    • Professional Identity Foundation Across the Curriculum
    • How can Higher Education/Legal Education be Made More Affordable
    • Motivating our Students/Students not Understanding Consequences
    • Teaching Gen Z
  • Eighth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2022

    After taking a year off in 2021, it was thrilling to welcome attendees in-person to the Endicott MIT House in Dedham, Massachusetts for the 8th Annual Leading Edge Conference on July 11-13, 2022. This year’s “unconference” was full of energetic brainstorming, informative discussion, and friendly networking about the present and future of legal education.

    • Socratic Method on Zoom
    • Reimagining Law School
    • Curriculum in 2025/Standard 303(b)&(c) and the need for collaboration
    • Online JDs
    • Law School Admissions without the LSAT
    • Alternative to the Bar Exam
    • After the Fall: Rebuilding Community
    • Law and Technology
    • Finding Space for Both Robust Classroom Discussion and Helpful Feedback for Students
    • Making Pedagogy a Priority in Legal Education
    • Money and Movement in Legal Education
    • Incorporating Writing Exercises into Doctrinal Classes
    • Transformations in Law School Teaching Since 2019
    • Potential of Test-Optional LSATs and its Effects on Admissions
    • Collaboration with Other Law Schools
    • Update on Law Student Well-Being: it is okay to not be okay
    • Building a Culture for Innovation and Change
    • Bringing Equity into Assessment and Grading
    • Teaching and Supporting First-Generation Students
    • Academic Freedom and Cancel Culture
  • Seventh Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2020 – Virtual Edition

    The 7th Annual Leading Edge Conference, while wholly online due to COVID-19, brought together participants from the first six Leading Edge conferences to reconnect and compare notes during a period of unprecedented change within the academy. This “reunion” was an ideal opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from across the country to discuss best practices for online teaching, integrating DE&I in the classroom, enrollment trends, the job outlook, and more.


    • Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack in the Classroom
    • Building a Community of Inquiry
    • How Will COVID Impact the Law School Model?
    • Diversity and Inclusion Post-COVID
    • Class Composition and Bar Passage
    • Contact Tracing to BLM Monitoring: Teaching Data Law & Protecting Vulnerable Groups
    • Applications and Jobs--What Now?
    • Topics in Online Education
  • Sixth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2019

    The 6th Annual Leading Edge Conference once again brought together legal education thought leaders from across the country to participate in another thought provoking and inspiring “unconference” where the agenda was entirely created by the attendees upon their arrival. From July 8–10, 2019, in Riverwoods, Illinois, the attendees engaged in collective idea-sharing, informal networking, and high-energy brainstorming surrounding core questions about the present and future of legal education.

    • The Transformation of the Economics of the Legal Education 2010–2016
    • The First 100 Days: What Would You Do as a Dean? Why? How?
    • Clean Slate: If we could start over what would your law school look like?
    • You be the Dean: Reducing the Cost of Law School Ethically
    • Job Market Update: Much has changed
    • Law Graduate Debt
    • Reducing the Toxic Influence of the US News Ranking on Law School Operations
    • Developing Assessment Resources for Professional Formation Learning Outcomes
    • How Do We Make (Keep) Law School Relevant — legal tech? experiential learning? cross-disciplinary teachings? Or something else altogether?
    • Using the Spanish LSAT as an Assessment for US Law Schools
    • Teaching the Law from a Transactional Perspective
    • Diversity in Legal Education and Administration
    • Innovative Teaching in the Information Age/Moving Legal Education Online
    • Faculty Hiring: The Narrowing of the Pipeline
    • What Should our Libraries be Doing to Support Students and Faculty that we Aren’t Doing
    • Socialization Through Pervasive Inattentiveness
    • Can you Make Someone a Better Teacher and if so, How?
    • Is Free Speech on Campus a Myth?
    • Specialization in Legalization: Will the Market Demand an Increase?
    • Experiential Learning Pods and Add-ons for Non-Trial Advocacy Courses
    • Using Tech to Increase Access to Justice
    • Bar Exam Passage Rates: How Do We Improve?
    • How do We Incorporate Wellness and Well-Being Topics into the Law School Curriculum and Extracurricular Activities of the Law School?
    • Assessment for Inclusion Not Disillusion
    • Moving Toward Collaboration Instead of the Competition Model of Delivering Legal Education
    • Should Law Schools Embrace Their Role in Upholding Democracy as an Institutional Outcome
  • Fifth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2018

    The 5th Annual Leading Edge Conference once again brought together legal education thought leaders from across the country to participate in another tremendously successful “unconference” where the agenda was entirely created by the attendees upon their arrival. From July 9–11, 2018, in Riverwoods, Illinois, the attendees engaged in collective idea-sharing, informal networking, and high-energy brainstorming surrounding core questions about the present and future of legal education.

    • Reducing Cost and Increasing ROEI (Return on Educational Investment)
    • How to Organize a Law School Curriculum around the Delta Competency Model
    • Good Bye (Christopher) Columbus (Langdell): Building Better Systems and Processes for Making Lawyers
    • Are We Sustainable (Or is Vikram Too Optimistic)?
    • The Critical First Year: How Can We Effectively Educate Today’s Students About All the Things We Want Them to Take Away from Their First Year?
    • Re-Examining Bar Review
    • Competitive Coping Strategies in the American Legal Academy
    • How Do We Design Transformational Experiences?
    • Younger, Older, and In-Between: Undergraduate Legal Education and Beyond in the Era of AI and High Cost Education
    • Experiential Methods and Intellectual Versatility
    • Roundtable: Less Resources and More Unprepared Students—What to Do?
    • Joint Session:
      • The Inclusive Classroom: Religion + Race + Gender + Academic Freedom
      • Professional Identity Formation
    • The Science of Learning as Applied to Law School
    • Incubators and Not-for-Profit Firms: Promoting Access to Justice and Facilitating Graduate Training
    • Joint Session:
      • Practical Strategies for Digital Entrepreneurs (or Entrepreneurial Thinkers/Doers)
      • Best Practices in Distance Learning
      • Developing Law School Distance Education—The Next Five Years
    • A Discussion about Motivating Change
    • New Algorithms in Legal Practice Tech (AI, Blockchain Tech, etc.)
    • Over/Under: How Many Law Schools Will There Be by 2030?
    • Legal Analysis—The Fundamental Skill: What Is It? How Can We Better Teach It?
    • Using Data Analysis to Customize Legal Education to Make It More Accessible and Increase Return on Investment
    • Lawyers and Clients Dealing with Identity Threat (Microaggression, Stereotype Threat)
    • Using and Improving Digital Textbooks
    • Design-Thinking for Legal Problem Solving
    • What Are Transactional Practice Core Competencies and How Should We Teach Them?
    • Teaching and Developing Leadership in the Law School
    • A Dialogue about the Changing Demographics in Law School—Implications for Leadership Development
  • Fourth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Leading Edge 2017

    Building on the prior success of the first three Leading Edge Conferences, the 4th Annual Leading Edge Conference brought together legal education thought leaders from across the country to discuss challenges and opportunities for law schools, faculty, and students. Held on July 10-12, 2017 in our Riverwoods, Illinois, complex, this “unconference” where the agenda is entirely driven by the attendees, covered these topics:


    • Law Faculty Professional Development in the Age of Assessment Creativity and other Higher Order Skills
    • The Role of Online and Hybrid Learning Environments on the Future of Legal Education in the Near and Long Term
    • What Do 1Ls Need to Know and How Do We Teach Them?
    • Are We Talking Past Our Students; Are We Not on the Same Page?
    • Lawyers as Leaders
    • Law Faculty Professional Development in the Age of Assessment
    • Changing the Culture
    • Cyber, Privacy, Internet ... Call It What You Will... Students Need to Know It
    • 10 Ways to Assure that Law School Remains/Becomes Relevant
    • The Ethics of Poaching
    • Diversity and the First Year Curriculum
    • Women Leaving the Law – Not Our Problem?
    • Law Professor as Story Teller
    • Google is Not the Answer
    • Data, Management, Marketing, and Outcomes – Science or Religion?
    • Disrupting Law School: Let’s Consider Non-Consumption in Legal Ed and Legal Services
    • Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
    • Do Law Schools Have a Responsibility to Teach Social Justice?
    • Do We Want to Break Free of the ABA and/or US News?
    • Expanding the Geographic and Substantive Reach of the Law School
    • Experiential Learning 2.0: Cross-Disciplinary Problem-Solving
    • Setting into the New Normal: The Job Market for New Law Graduates Today and What that Means for the Legal Academy Tomorrow
    • Should Student Tuition $$ Subsidize Faculty Scholarship?
  • Third Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Third Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    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 these challenges:


    • Structuring Bloom’s Taxonomy for legal education
    • Ultimate death match: Boomers vs. Millennials in a law school environment
    • What 1 or 2 skills, activities, experiences, or courses, would you like to see made more available (or perhaps even required) and when?
    • Law students as future entrepreneurs
    • The $10K JD
    • Brainstorm! On improving entry-level employment outcomes (Or, Adventures in Alliteration)
    • Assumptions/pre-conceived notions that faculty and students bring to legal education
    • The future of the law school within the university
    • How do we prepare future lawmakers and policy makers through legal education
    • Keeping legal education valuable: how to get here from there
    • What role does the bar exam play?
    • Continued—defense of scholarship BUT focus on what it is and how to measure
    • Personal autonomy and professionalism (law school as profession or liberal art education)
    • Meaning of practical legal education
    • Developing professional judgment and forming professional identity
    • Changes in the legal profession—looking back, looking forward 25 years
    • I’m 55 and tenured. What now? 
    • Are we yeaching students to play hockey when we should be preparing them for Disney on Ice?
    • Pointing the finger: Unprepared Students vs. Unprepared Law Schools
    • The future of law meets
    • Learning outcomes and assessments measures
    • Entrepreneurship across the arc of lawyering: professoring, learning, lawyering, and lawyering for entrepreneurs
    • How do we attract the best and brightest to go to law school (as well as diverse candidates)? 
  • Second Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Second Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    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.


    • Changing demographics and bar passage realities
    • What should the 2nd and 3rd year of law school look like?
    • A modest proposal for the decriminalization of the part-time practice of law by tenure track faculty
    • What might law schools learn from design thinking and the Stanford Design School
    • Assumptions made by students and faculty in law school
    • Designing post-law school “incubator” programs to bridge graduates to low-bono small/solo practice
    • Kickstarts, Bootcamps, and other bridge programs: Preparing underprepared students for law school
    • Carnegie-integrated courses
    • What do we know about undergraduate teaching and learning? Do we care? Should we care?
    • Why experiential education? Exploring the conventional justifications and what they imply for all concerned
    • Globalization and legal education overhyped? How impactful? Underappreciated?
    • Demonstrating behavioral economics in reading and comprehension
    • Can a law school be a graduate school—revenue degrees and mission
    • Better student/faculty meeting: Promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose in law students
    • Online education
    • How to deal with difficult students?
    • Should law schools be teaching for mastery?
    • Law student survey: Mental health issues and the culture in law school.
    • Managing change in the law school landscape
  • First Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    First Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    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.


    • MOOC-Mania: How technology enhanced education is changing the face of higher education
    • Dealing with faculty status issues during times of economic crisis
    • Changing how we assess students
    • What is legal ed for? What is its purpose? Who should be given it? Is it all about lawyering?
    • What law schools can learn from architecture schools (the studio, the "crit," and more)
    • The changing market for entry level employment for law graduates and its implications for the academy
    • Gender in the Legal Academy
    • The (somewhat dismal but not necessarily as bad as some say) state of legal education
    • What makes a good casebook/coursebook (or do we need them at all?)
    • Teaching millennials from the 19-century law curriculum and assessing them, OR NOT
    • 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?
    • How will changing demographics of law students impact law schools and the legal profession?
    • Teaching "soft" skills in "hard" classes
    • What the rest of the university can learn from the law school experience
    • The big picture—7 observations about legal education
    • How mindset can promote change in legal education
    • Solving the access to justice problem by reforming legal education
    • The changing legal academy: Does one size fit all?
    • Regulation with or without the ABA: Knowing your enemy
    • Any impact of internationalization/globalization? Are we missing the boat? Or does it not matter?
    • Law school degrees: NOT a JD or even a LL.M.
    • 21st century classrooms—Designing spaces for active learning/flipped teaching
    • Students as reluctant to see change: How to deal with this reluctance? Why is it happening?
    • How should law schools be "forming" professional identity in a changing market