Monday, March 25, 2013

Justice Scalia says modern legal education is a "failure."

Justice Scalia made the remark during a dinner last week recognizing the 40th Anniversary of the University of New Hampshire School of Law (nee Franklin Pierce Law Center).  More specifically, he criticized the proliferation of "law and [insert non-legal topic]" courses at the expense of exposing students to “the austere pleasures of doctrinal courses.”  He was also critical of a legal education system that allows professors to rise to prominence based on what they write rather than their teaching skill (many firmly believe that the two are related and thus the heavy emphasis on scholarship informs the professor's teaching). Here's an excerpt of Scalia's remarks courtesy of the New Hampshire Seacoast online:

Scalia, who was appointed to he nation’s highest court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, is known for his often controversial speeches on and away from the bench, said he planned not to provoke controversy though he admitted the subject was contentious. He said modern legal education is less rigorous than in the past and filled with too many elective courses that sometimes have little to do with the law.

“We now have classes in the law and ... the law and literature, the law and feminism, the law and poverty, the law and economics,” Scalia said.

He noted that since legal education was formally created at Harvard in 1870, a systematic breakdown has occurred in teaching and curriculum. “The teaching of law has failed,” he said, because too many elective classes allow students to be lazy and bypass “the austere pleasures of doctrinal courses.”

He also criticized the academic trends that allow law professors to become “prominent not because of how they teach but how they publish.” Scalia said he had also fallen into the trap when as a law professor at the University of Virginia, he “begrudged” time spent away from research and writing to actually teach.

Hat tip to Above the Law.


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