Teaching First-Year Civil Procedure and Other Introductory Courses by the Problem Method
Stephen J. Shapiro
University of Baltimore - School of Law
December 1, 2000
Creighton Law Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2000
I have been teaching the first-year course in Civil Procedure for twenty years, first for five years at Ohio Northern University, and for the last fifteen years at the University of Baltimore, where I also teach a required second-year course in Evidence. When I first started teaching Civil Procedure, I used a fairly typical case method. I was never very happy with this approach for teaching a course in which one of my major goals was getting the students to learn to read, interpret and apply the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Federal Rules”). Gradually, I began to develop sets of my own problems which I used to teach some of the classes. Eventually, I developed enough problems, so that I could teach the entire first semester of the two-semester course by the problem method. Within the last several years I have developed enough additional problems to teach both semesters of Civil Procedure and also the Evidence course entirely by the problem method. There has been an ongoing debate within legal education as to the relative merits of various teaching methods, especially the case method and the problem method. Yet even some supporters of the problem method believe that it is more suited to smaller, advanced upper-level courses than to large sections of first-year courses, and other basic courses such as Evidence. I have developed a variation of the problem method that I think works well with these courses, especially when the courses are rule or statute oriented, rather than common-law subjects. In this article I will describe my particular brand of teaching by the problem method, and explain how and why I use it. I will also try to evaluate its benefits and shortcomings. Finally, I will provide some practical guidance for other law faculty who would like to try such an approach.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: legal education, civil procedure, case method, problem method, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, teaching methods, evidence, law faculty
JEL Classification: K19, K39, I2, I29,
Date posted: July 1, 2009
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