Sunday, December 4, 2011

Legal Education: Don’t Disparage the Humanities

In the ongoing debate over legal education, the focus has been on teaching legal skills v. teaching legal doctrine and analysis. Implicitly, the debate has quietly said nothing complimentary about such courses as Law & Literature, Legal History, and Jurisprudence. Are these courses too impractical to include in the curriculum? Should academics spend their time writing in these fields?

An essential part of lawyering is understanding the human condition. We spend our time working with people, trying to understand what motivates them, what generates pain, anger, discomfort, what they  really want, what will satisfy them. The humanities help us learn about the human condition—a lifelong educational process. Without this knowledge, lawyers probably will not be very accomplished.

I often think about a conversation that I once had with an effective lawyer-lobbyist. He said that one of the most important classes he ever took was a class on the Greek plays. According to the lawyer, those ancient works taught him much about human nature.


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