Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell

Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 64, No. 4, 2015

32 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2015

See all articles by Jeremiah A. Ho

Jeremiah A. Ho

University of Massachusetts School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2015


So why do law schools place skills instruction below the dissemination of legal knowledge even though it is the practice of law that lawyers are engaged in doing and not just the mere knowing of it? Both should be equally significant. Although law teaching methodologies have shifted somewhat to accommodate the changing cognitive adaptations of the human mind in this age of digital technology, law instruction in classrooms still possess a deeply-rooted basis in legal formalist considerations of the law from the 19th century that displaces skills instruction for the advancement of the legal knowledge. Consequently, in order to further the image of the “Learned Profession” of lawyering, law schools have perpetuated a difficult dichotomy between knowledge and practice. As we move to identify the New Normal in legal education during this current crisis, that dichotomy plays a part in how we need to recalibrate law teaching in order to instill competency rather than propagating a formalist concept of legal education that isolates and depoliticizes law from practice.

This Article, Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell, attempts to bring both the teaching of practice and knowledge on equal footing with each other to avoid student misconceptions of hierarchy that harbor larger professionalism issues. It offers a method for law teachers to incorporate skills teaching actively in the classroom in a way that legitimizes legal reasoning skills on par with the instruction of legal knowledge. In this way, the Article proposes a new normative in the “New Normal” of legal education: that there should be a continuous engagement with active learning that integrates skills into the doctrinal classroom in a seamless way. The law is a discipline that is brought to life by us and our students very much in part through its practice. We cannot ignore that aspect of this field, nor afford to do so.

Keywords: legal education, law teaching, active learning, Langdell, legal formalism, mimesis, teaching methods, hierarchy

Suggested Citation

Ho, Jeremiah A., Function, Form, and Strawberries: Subverting Langdell (May 1, 2015). Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 64, No. 4, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Jeremiah A. Ho (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law ( email )

333 Faunce Corner Road
N Dartmouth, MA 02747
United States
508-985-1156 (Phone)

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