Inside the Law School Classroom: Toward a New Legal Realist Pedagogy
28 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2010
Date Written: December 2, 2010
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.
Keywords: law school education, legal language, new legal realism, empirical legal research
JEL Classification: K40
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