Mirror of Justice

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The New York Times on the nature of legal education

The Times has published a series of articles criticizing American law schools; over the weekend, the paper editorialized on the topic, pronouncing that "American legal education is in crisis."  It appears that there are no Thomists on the NYT editorial board:   

The case method has been the foundation of legal education for 140 years. Its premise was that students would learn legal reasoning by studying appellate rulings. That approach treated law as a form of science and as a source of truth.

That vision was dated by the 1920s. It was a relic by the 1960s. Law is now regarded as a means rather than an end, a tool for solving problems.

I do think that law schools need to get better at training students in the practice of law, especially in the second and third years.  I'm pretty sure, though, that viewing law "as a source of truth" should not bear the brunt of blame for what ails legal education.

UPDATE: I note that Marc DeGirolami commented on the editorial over at his non-MoJ blogging perch.

http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2011/11/the-new-york-times-on-the-nature-of-legal-education.html

Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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What makes the piece so bizarre is that it assumes you have to believe in law as a science, in the style of German historicists or Langdell, in order to think that studying cases is worthwhile. But even pragmatists believe that reading and thinking about cases is useful to get a handle on what courts are likely to do. I don't recall Judge Posner, or Daniel Farber, or Justice Breyer, ever writing that it is a waste of educational energy to read and try to understand case law.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Nov 28, 2011 12:16:47 PM

Rob,

There's also been several posts by Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions and one by Dean Jim Chen at MoneyLaw (Jurisdynamics), the latter with links to a handful of articles (including those from the Times) that some might find of interest.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Nov 28, 2011 1:51:34 PM

One would think it logical to assume that studying the case method would be a good thing unless the outcome of a particular case was based upon a false assumption. Truth begets truth, while error begets error.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Nov 29, 2011 1:17:33 PM