What Would Langdell Have Thought? UC Irvine’s New Law School and the Question of History
UC Irvine Law Review, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2011
61 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2011
Date Written: March 1, 2011
C.C. Langdell created modern American legal education’s disciplinary consciousness and point of institutional departure, but professional legal education has journeyed far from its originating moment. What do Langdell’s Harvard and Chemerinsky’s Irvine share, other than the appellation “law school”? How should we understand the development of American legal education and of the legal scholarship it produces? This article argues that legal education is best understood as one of the most important processes contributing to the development of the modern American juridical field, defined as the intrastructural ensemble of personnel and institutions individually and collectively engaged in the systematic and continuous reinvention of “law” as a process of rule production controlled by professionalized juridical institutions and practices. The article pays particular attention to the history of the process of rule production and of the distinctive legal practices that structure it in the U.S. case. It also delineates the role of “history” itself as an activity, both professional and ideational, relevant to the determination of the contours of the modern American juridical field, and to the legitimation of its rule production processes. Part 1 offers an abbreviated account of the development of the juridical field in the U.S. case. Part 2 offers an appraisal of the role played by legal history inside and outside the juridical field, focusing in particular on its successes and failures in constructing a coherent theory of history of and for that field through the early 1970s. Part 3 concentrates on the particular significance of “Critical Legal History” and “Critical Historicism,” the development of which between the 1970s and the turn of the twenty-first century coincided with the rapid growth of legal history as a field of practice. Part 4 advances a conceptualization of American legal history as a “structural history of the creation and production of national legal practices.” Part 5 considers the interdisciplinary/public service turn that Irvine’s new law school has embraced, and offers a series of speculations on the reasons for Irvine’s choices informed by the article’s account of the American juridical field and of the place of history in the field’s research agenda.
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