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In comparative praise of the Anglo American law school
The Alben W. Barkley School of Law (2007)
  • Juan Javier del Granado
In 1992, Judge Harry T. Edwards launched an attack on many United States law professors’ over-reliance on abstract theory at the expense of practical skills. He was wrong, however, when he suggested that they adopt a much older model of pedagogy -- one with which we are all familiar -- the traditional path of lengthy traineeship or apprenticeship in law. Moreover, his attack on the centrality of the Socratic method and law libraries to legal education was irrational and dangerous. Perhaps unknown to Judge Edwards, United States law schools are much more likely to produce students who are ready to practice law on graduation than are foreign law schools. In other countries, no rational judge would expect newly graduated law students to be competent; the norm is to follow up an academic course in law with a legal apprenticeship. In the United States, law is a post-graduate course. A modified Socratic method pushes students up the steep slope of legal learning. Access to good legal libraries allows students to use class time to practice skills and to parse out exactly what transpired in cases, as opposed to learning a dogmatic version of law. In contrast, throughout most of the world, law is an undergraduate course. Law schools lack strong law libraries and the standard teaching method is the magisterial lecture. Judge Edwards’ attack does a disservice to the world's most advanced legal-education establishment. Christopher Columbus Langdell does not deserve Judge Edwards’ criticisms. Those who castigate the “false dogmas of Langdell” overlook that this great nineteenth century innovator is responsible for giving United States attorneys a comparative advantage over foreign-trained lawyers. Educators should recognize that Langdell’s innovations in the late 19th century helped to prepare a new, savvier generation of legal technocrats, and that this supply of legal talent was a factor in the emergence of the United States as a world power in the early 20th century.
Publication Date
September, 2007
Citation Information
Juan Javier del Granado. "In comparative praise of the Anglo American law school" The Alben W. Barkley School of Law (2007)
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