Document Type



Legal Education


Anyone who has taught in law schools for three decades or more has witnessed a paradigm shift in legal education. From the 1960s through the 1980s, it was common to ask how law school differs from the kind of practical training that might be acquired in, say, apprenticeship to a practitioner. A frequent answer was to compare law schools with graduate schools in arts and sciences and to argue that the law students were taught similar skills of reasoning, normative evaluation, cultural contextualization, and self-examination. For the most part it was taken for granted that academic scholars aspired to these traits, that graduate schools fostered them, and that law schools could and should emulate graduate schools in these ways.

While it is hardly controversial that these arguments were commonly made, it is not necessarily obvious that graduate schools really achieved these goals, nor is it obvious whether and how these goals might be addressed in a law curriculum. The underlying perspective was the projection of social reality. In these decades, many law school teachers began their careers as historians, philosophers, literary scholars, and social scientists. They migrated to law schools from an oversaturated job market in humanities and social sciences, and they proceeded to reconfigure their new homes in the styles to which they were accustomed. They rationalized their new jobs as variations of what they had been doing all along-which in no way invalidates their account.