Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
Rick Garnett (Notre Dame, left) has a neat post over at PrawfsBlawg reacting to a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about the purported failures of legal education in training students to be problem-solvers.
The part to which I am most sympathetic, given my eclectic background and orientation, is Rick's reaction to the suggestion that we'd turn out better lawyers if we stopped accepting English majors, and started accepting more mathematicians and economists. Rick has responded to this better than I could - and it would just start me another Dennis Miller-like rant anyway.
What I liked best was Rick's epigram about lawyering being moral philosophy at the retail level. That's absolutely the right way to look at it. Indeed, the irony is that the legal academy has a scientific/reductionism bent, which lends itself to thinking that issues are not only problems to be solved, but that all issues are merely problems. Some issues are in the nature of polarity or paradox, and inherent unsolvable, and only, at best, manageable. I speak from experience when I say that those are issues that can flummox mathematicians and engineers and economists in real life: "the function doesn't work! the model doesn't work? what do we do?" The application of wisdom - which may include law, or functions, or models, or may not - to real problems is, as Rick says, moral philosophy at the retail level.
Which is consistent with another characterization - this being my own - that law professors have this wonderful license to be social philosophers, or applied philosophers. I suppose we could say that is moral philosophy at the wholesale level, which means that we intervene between the retail stuff, and the moral philosophy at the manufacturing level, which must be all that epistemology and ontology stuff that you have to have a Ph.D. to practice.