Cultivating Humility

(2021) 55:3 The Law Teacher 364

25 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2020 Last revised: 22 Jun 2022

See all articles by Phil Lord

Phil Lord

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law; McGill University - Faculty of Law; York University - Osgoode Hall Law School


This article focusses on the role of humility in the law school. It argues in favour of a culture where humility is consciously cultivated in law students. Section I considers the grading curve, a quintessentially North American attribute of almost all law schools. It analyses and theorises the curve and its effect in cultivating humility. It suggests that, while the curve can have a humbling effect, this effect is felt irregularly among law students and comes with significant and often discounted consequences. This article argues that a model where humility is more consciously cultivated could minimise these consequences. Section II provides such an alternative, arguing in favour of law professors showing humility and vulnerability. It depicts this alternative as both a partial antidote to the grading curve’s problems and a key starting point in inviting students to be vulnerable and constitutively challenging what it means to be a lawyer.

Keywords: Humility, legal education, assessment, vulnerability, grading curve

Suggested Citation

Lord, Phil, Cultivating Humility. (2021) 55:3 The Law Teacher 364, Available at SSRN:

Phil Lord (Contact Author)

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law ( email )

18 Antonine-Maillet Ave
Moncton, NB E1A 3E9


McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal, QC H3A 1W9

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

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