Sunday, June 28, 2020

Montaigne and Professional Identity in Legal Education

An essay in the NY Times on the 16th-century, French philosopher Montaigne contains a paragraph that applies to how law schools should be teaching their students:

"More than a millennium earlier, thinkers like Epicurus and Seneca had already mapped out this path. Inscribing their words on the pages of his essays — as well as in the roof beams of his library — Montaigne grasped that, unlike philosophers in his day (or our own), these teachers sought not to inform their students, but instead to form them. As the classical scholar Pierre Hadot has argued, Stoicism and Epicureanism offered not airy abstractions but real-world “spiritual exercises.” Though the methods of these school varied, their mission was the same: to teach students how to master physics and ethics not as an end, but as the means to master their own selves and so better deal with life’s daily challenges, no less than its sudden catastrophes."

The idea behind the professional identity movement in legal education is the same as in Montaigne's essays--law schools should be forming students by helping them develop their professional identities.  If law schools form their students, they will never again be accused of being trade schools.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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