Fundamental Principles and Challenges of Humanizing Legal Education

14 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2009

See all articles by Barbara Glesner Fines

Barbara Glesner Fines

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: January 13, 2009


While the humanizing legal education community has been recognized as an official section of the American Association of Law Schools; has an active listserv with student, scholar and attorney members; and has hosted international conferences such as this one; there is no clear definition of "humanizing legal education." In this essay, I suggest three principles that underlie the scholarship of those who seek to humanize legal education and then ask some hard questions about the economics of legal education that challenge our ability to meet any of these principles.

First - Do No Harm. Scholars devoted to humanizing legal education might consider the language we choose: what is it to "humanize" something?

Second - Teach Students Not Just Subjects. Certainly doing no harm - creating positive, supportive learning environments - is the starting point in valuing our students. We must do more, however, than merely remove negatives if we are to place the highest priority on the humans we are educating.

Third - Peace and Justice. A third value found threaded throughout all of the humanizing literature is more about explicit values education.

The call to humanize legal education is part of a much larger call to humanize the profession by recapturing the essence of professional values - peacemaking, problem solving, and justice work. Both the public and attorneys themselves are increasingly disillusioned about lawyers and the law. The answer to humanizing legal education and legal practice lies in rekindling professional values of peacemaking and service. To truly humanize legal education we must step out of the classroom and hallways and advocate on behalf of our students. We must step into the admissions and financial aid offices and take into account the values of investing in our students. We must step into the state houses to advocate on behalf of law, lawyers, and legal education. Lastly and at a minimum, we must be sure our students understand the finances of law school and the profession and have the courage to tell that truth without fear of its impact on our own economic circumstances.

Keywords: Legal education, Law school, Humanizing, Learning environment, Teaching, Students, Values, Professionalism, Economics

JEL Classification: K10, I20, I21, I29

Suggested Citation

Glesner Fines, Barbara, Fundamental Principles and Challenges of Humanizing Legal Education (January 13, 2009). Washburn Law Journal, Vol. 47, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Barbara Glesner Fines (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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