My Grandmother Was Mrs. Palsgraf: Ways to Rethink Legal Education to Help Students Become Lawyers, Rather Than Just Thinking Like Them
46 Cap. L. Rev., 2017, Forthcoming
38 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2017 Last revised: 20 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 15, 2017
This article uses my family history, and its striking similarities to the Palsgraf case, as a starting point for a consideration of the ways law schools teach the law to their students, the problems that approach appears to cause, and some possible alternative, and potentially healthier, approaches to legal education.
My grandmother, grandfather, mother, and uncle were all in a house that was blown-up and destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War. And while the cause of the explosion was very different to that in Palsgraf, the fact of an explosion that drastically changed the lives of those who were its victims is the same in both cases. And yet the telling of my family history produces a markedly different reaction from that often experienced by law students in their first semester when they learn about the Palsgraf case. Why that is, and how that can be changed in the future, is the subject of this article.
The article first considers the Palsgraf case, both as it is taught and why it’s taught that way, then explores the facts of my family’s war experiences and considers why the telling of that story produces very different responses than does the Palsgraf case, especially from first year law students. The article then looks at the way law is taught in the first year of law school, who teaches it, why it’s taught that way, and how the way law is taught relates to the actual practice of law.
After concluding that the current – and long-standing – approach to legal education ill serves students, the practicing bar, and the clients who employ lawyers, the article outlines some possible changes to legal education that might improve the experience of legal education for everyone. Except, perhaps, for the faculty.
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