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Inside the Law School Classroom: Toward a New Legal Realist Pedagogy

Elizabeth Mertz

University of Wisconsin - Madison; American Bar Foundation

December 2, 2010

Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 60, p. 483, 2007
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1143

Recent years have seen renewed interest in empirical research on law. Variously described as a "new legal realism" or as "empirical legal studies," this return to a focus on the social sciences in many ways echoes an earlier era of legal realism in American law " with some important differences. At the same time, there has also been growing interest in introducing possible reforms to the U.S. system of legal education. This article combines these two themes -- empirical research on law and careful re-examination of legal education. It reports on an empirical study of legal education (conducted at the American Bar Foundation). After discussing that study, the article considers the implications of the research for law teaching. How does law work when it translates information about society " from social science findings to the nitty-gritty details of plaintiffs' and defendants' lives? I argue for a more rigorous approach to conceptualizing and teaching this process of legal translation, and I contend that this kind of rigor should be central to any new legal realist or empirical project in the legal academy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: law school education, legal language, new legal realism, empirical legal research

JEL Classification: K40

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Date posted: December 4, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Mertz, Elizabeth, Inside the Law School Classroom: Toward a New Legal Realist Pedagogy (December 2, 2010). Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 60, p. 483, 2007; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1143. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1719235 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1719235

Contact Information

Elizabeth Ellen Mertz (Contact Author)
University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )
716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States
American Bar Foundation ( email )
750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
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