Reimagining Langdell's Legacy: Puncturing the Equilibrium in Law School Pedagogy

101 North Carolina Law Review Forum 118 (2023)

44 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2023 Last revised: 24 Jun 2023

See all articles by Rachel Gurvich

Rachel Gurvich

University of North Carolina School of Law

L. Danielle Tully

Brooklyn Law School

Laura A. Webb

University of Richmond - School of Law

Alexa Chew

University of North Carolina School of Law

Jane Ellen Cross

Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law

Joy Kanwar

Brooklyn Law School

Date Written: 2023

Abstract

For more than 150 years, legal education has largely followed the course charted by Christopher Columbus Langdell when he became Dean of Harvard Law School in 1870. Langdell’s innovations included the case method, high-stakes summative assessments, and preferences for faculty members with experience in “learning law” rather than practicing it. His proposals were innovative and responsive to challenges in legal education at the time, but this Article argues that taking Langdell’s approach to reform — including a willingness to implement radical changes in the face of institutional shortcomings — requires reimagining his methods for the benefit of today’s students. We identify key deficiencies of the Langdellian method, which was devised for a different set of students and at a time when we knew far less about how people learn. And we propose reforms, recommending inclusive course design that encompasses a broad range of competencies for a broad range of practices and inclusive pedagogical practices in both teaching and assessment. We also encourage all members of the law school community to share responsibility for implementing these reforms rather than relying on only a few “front-line” faculty and staff.

Keywords: Legal education; pedagogy; Langdell; Socratic method; case method; law school; experiential education

Suggested Citation

Gurvich, Rachel and Tully, L. Danielle and Webb, Laura A. and Chew, Alexa and Cross, Jane E. Ellen and Kanwar, Joy, Reimagining Langdell's Legacy: Puncturing the Equilibrium in Law School Pedagogy ( 2023). 101 North Carolina Law Review Forum 118 (2023) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4411101

Rachel Gurvich (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

L. Danielle Tully

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

Laura A. Webb

University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

Alexa Chew

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

Jane E. Ellen Cross

Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law ( email )

3305 College Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
United States
(954) 262-6014 (Phone)
(954) 262-3835 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.nova.edu/faculty/full-time-faculty/cross-jane.html

Joy Kanwar

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
11201-3700 (Fax)

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