Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Abstract: In addressing best practices in legal education, this article explores reasons why Langdell’s case method is inefficient, myopic, lifeless, and simply wrong in its general elevation of certain appellate cases over other sources of law. In demonstrating the factual and semantic impossibility of separating legal theory from practice, this article also discredits: (1) Langdell’s strange notion that legal practice renders lawyers unfit to teach law, (2) related claims that real lines can be drawn between “doctrinal” and “practical” courses, (3) related views that legal writing professors and clinical professors cannot be “core” law school faculty, and (4) misguided fears that law schools embracing “practice” are somehow less academically rigorous than law schools which do.
In reviewing the inseparability of legal theory and practice, this article also reviews the modern cognitive theory of embodied meaning, the reasons why embodied meaning also fuses theory and practice, and reviews the importance of understanding metaphor and category usage in such embodied legal meaning. In exploring the importance of metaphor in legal education, this article also addresses the inseparability of the liberal arts from best practices in legal education. To supplement this discussion, appendices on metaphorical traps for lawyers and on stock metaphors are included.
Given the deficiencies in Langdell’s case method, the problems with Langdell’s views of experienced faculty, and the inseparability of legal theory and practice, this article suggests new approaches to pedagogy, course books, and faculty selection. Among other things, it proposes: (1) abandoning the case method except in subjects such as Constitutional law where cases actually comprise important primary materials, (2) revising course books to incorporate hornbook material and actual practice examples, (3) recognizing the importance of substantial practice experience when hiring new faculty, (4) erasing arbitrary lines between “core” and “non-core” faculty, and (5) placing greater emphasis upon the humanities in legal education.