Legal Realist Innovation in the Wisconsin Law School Curriculum 1950-1970: Four Influential Introductory Courses

22 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2019

See all articles by William H. Clune

William H. Clune

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: December 21, 2018


This paper is about four courses developed by faculty of the Wisconsin Law School from about 1950-1970 that reflected the law-in-action instructional goals of American legal realism: Legal history by Willard Hurst; Criminal Justice Administration by Frank Remington, Herman Goldstein and colleagues; The Wisconsin contracts course by Stewart Macaulay, Bill Whitford and colleagues; Legal Process by Willard Hurst, Lloyd Garrison, Carl Auerbach and colleagues.

Eight themes in the courses are discussed: 1. Major flaws in the legal reasoning of appellate decisions (e.g., as internally incoherent, un-predictive of later results, politically biased under the guise of formal reasoning) 2, The importance of practical remedies over theoretical rights 3. The importance of legal agencies and law practice beyond appellate and other court decisions (e.g., legislation, administrative law) 4. The importance and impact of discretionary decisions of lower level public officials (for lawyers and citizens) 5, How private actors react to law and influence outcomes (and the role of lawyers in advising them) 6. Growth of legal policies over time in relationship to the wider society & economy (legal history) 7. The gap between social needs and justice and real legal outcomes and workable legal reforms (political progressivism) 8. The importance of empirical research on law, interdisciplinary research and social scientists on law school faculties or in collaboration with law faculty members.

Keywords: law school curriculum, legal realism, legal process, legal history, law in action, critical legal studies, legal remedies, Langdell discretionary, legal decisions, relational contracts, interdisciplinary legal studies, progressive social policy, law reform

JEL Classification: K42: Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

Suggested Citation

Clune, William H., Legal Realist Innovation in the Wisconsin Law School Curriculum 1950-1970: Four Influential Introductory Courses (December 21, 2018). Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1458, Available at SSRN: or

William H. Clune (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

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Madison, WI 53706
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