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Rediscovering the Lawyer School: Curriculum Reform in Wisconsin

41 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2009  

Keith A. Findley

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: 2006-2007


From America's inception through the Civil War, legal education was entirely practice-oriented; it was based not on academic study at a university, but consisted almost exclusively of apprenticeship with a practicing lawyer. As the study of law moved from apprenticeships in law firms to university-based law schools, the method of study became more theoretical. After the 1870s, Langdell's case method became the dominant model of studying and teaching the law. Gradually, law schools became more abstract and theoretical, and less grounded in the practice of law. Increasingly, practicing lawyers and judges complained that law schools were not preparing law students who were ready for the practice of law in terms of either the skills or the values necessary for effective practice. This article explores the history of legal education, the calls for greater relevance, and the ways law schools such as the University of Wisconsin can reform their curricula to respond to these concerns.

Keywords: curriculum reform, legal education, clinical education, Langdell, Socratic method, case method

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Findley, Keith A., Rediscovering the Lawyer School: Curriculum Reform in Wisconsin (2006-2007). Wisconsin International Law Journal, Vol. 24, 2006-07; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1074. Available at SSRN:

Keith A. Findley (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-4763 (Phone)
608-263-3380 (Fax)


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