Back to the Future: Teaching Law Through Stories

25 Pages Posted: 17 May 2003

See all articles by Paul L. Caron

Paul L. Caron

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law


This Essay explains the pedagogical theory behind the new Law Stories series of books to be published by Foundation Press. The Law Stories series is intended to enrich the use of the case method of instruction in the law school classroom. By focusing on fewer cases and pausing for an in-depth review of the seminal cases in the field, the professor can empower students to construct their own schematic understanding of the area of law. Cognitive science teaches that such active learning produces more lasting value to students who are better equipped to process new information and solve new problems within the context of their self-constructed schemata. Professors thus should resist the temptation to do this work for students, conveying our schemata in a top-down fashion, with students playing merely a passive role in receiving this oracular wisdom. As a result, Professors should not sacrifice depth of coverage at the alter of scope of coverage; rather than rush through the signature cases in our subject in order to get to the latest hot topic or fashionable theory, professors should savor the opportunity to unpack with our students what it is that makes these cases central to a deep understanding of the field. The Law Stories series provides the raw material to enhance the study of the foundation cases in different subjects. As the initial book in the series, Tax Stories provides an in-depth examination into ten pivotal United States Supreme Court cases in the development of the federal income tax that provide fresh insights both into particular doctrinal areas of tax law as well as issues of wider application across the tax law.

Suggested Citation

Caron, Paul L., Back to the Future: Teaching Law Through Stories. Univ. of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 02-1, FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 80, University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 71, p. 405, 2002, Available at SSRN: or

Paul L. Caron (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
310.506.4266 (Phone)

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