Embracing New (and Old) Ideas
53 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 157 (2017)
13 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017
Date Written: March 12, 2017
In 1970 Christopher Langdell first introduced case studies and the Socratic method to Harvard Law School, replacing lectures and textbook recitation. Along with Langdell’s Method of classroom education came many features of modern legal education: the three-year course of study, the requirement of a bachelor’s degree for admission, written examinations, and education by full-time professors rather than practicing attorneys.
These changes occurred in response to real or perceived market forces, often beginning with a few innovative law schools before widespread adoption. Historically, the forces in question were ones of increased demand for legal services and increased demand for training and credentialing of attorneys. However, the marketplaces for legal education and legal services are now facing crises of decreasing demand, brought about by a combination of rising costs, increased competition from non-attorney service providers, and technological disruption.
This has created a new Langdellian moment: an opportunity for innovative law schools to determine the future of American legal education. This Essay suggests looking to the past for one possible path forward: law schools should return to offering the LL.B, now as a four-year undergraduate degree, while making the J.D. the research- focused graduate degree it always should have been.
Keywords: legal education, law schools
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