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The Ghost of Louis Brandeis on How to Teach Law School

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2 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    This is more evidence that times change, including legal training and practice. Here in MA we currently have 8 law schools, most of which came into existence after Brandeis’ letter to Langdon. Following the Great Recession of 2008, the legal profession has taken economic hits that now impact law schools and their economics, including for faculties. Perhaps these faculties felt quite secure with tenure and the economic attractions of students to law schools. But times change. If such faculties are reduced, will those released make inroads in the practice of law via their expertise in certain areas of the law and end up in large law firms? That’s not clear. But times change and possibly in time both the teaching and practice of law may become, in a sense, commoditized, a little less a profession as we have known it. There have been ups and downs in the legal profession over the years, with cycling, but over time advancing. Will that be the case again? Consider how many via the Internet self-diagnose their health issues. Some may also do so for their legal issues. Entrepreneurs will take steps for more commoditization of both professions. Some may look back with fondness at Perry Mason, Law & Order, etc, reruns of the golden age of the practice of law. But times change. Can we?

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    Thanks Shag. To set Brandeis’s letter and Langdell’s reforms in a little more context, what was going on at the time was a two-front battle to establish the legitimacy of both the legal profession and legal education. Langdell was keen to portray law as a sort of science, because he believed that only by doing so would it be seen as a fitting subject for university education, alongside other fields of study. The move to shift the faculty from practitioners to recent, academically-inclined graduates was part of this maneuver. The second front was to establish the legitimacy and social status of lawyers in general. Only if the practice of law required certain minimum qualifications such as several years of study, an advanced degree, an admission exam, and peer-enforced rules, it was thought, would it properly be viewed as a “profession” (instead of a trade, or a business). The same sort of thing was occurring in other fields where practitioners wanted to be seen as professionals, including medicine, teaching, accounting, journalism, and the like. I’m not sure about Langdell’s first assumption, and the second is pretty well-ingrained in our culture, although we do seem to have been dialing back on it the last few decades.