The Beginning of Law Schools and The Study of Law
Up to the middle of the last century, the more popular method of legal instruction in America was the training of young law students in the office of a judge or practicing attorney. Even today a large number of lawyers in the United States receive their training somewhat in the same manner. In order to be admitted into the practice of law, one must pass a bar examination. This exam is conducted by a court or board acting under judicial direction. The knowledge needed to study for and pass the exam can be found wherever the candidate thinks they can find it.
The oldest law school in America was of Judge Reeve ...view middle of the document...
The two methods of instruction-lecture method and text-book method- were always present in newer schools and very effective. Even today in the United States these methods are used with a lot of improvements and added detail.
During the early 1870’s a man by the name of Christopher Columbus Langdell created a new method of instruction for English law. Langdell was a New York city lawyer, he was appointed dean of Harvard law school in 1875. Langdell wanted to revise the curriculum of the school. He was famed for the introduction of the “case method'; system in the study of law. In his view the principles of law are best learned by inductive study of the actual legal situations (the cases) in which they occur (Janosik 32).
The instruction of the case method is an idea of learning law through studying the cases, this method soon became associated with the Socratic system of question and answer. The case method system has been at the top of American legal education for the last 110 years (Bessette 20-21). This new method never went without being questioned by conservative teachers who believed that the abstract formulation of the law was the essential need of students (22). Regardless of its critiques the method has proven to be very effective, and almost all would see its virtuosity in terms of teaching analytic skills rather than substance. The method has not had any serious competitors for awhile. The Harvard law school, where the method originated, has dominated the development of legal education for a century, proving the brilliance and effectiveness of the method (70).
The first edition of the first book planned by Langdell was “ A Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts';, these books were his view of how the English common law must be taught (Lisneck, Friedland, and Salamone 18). These books were arranged in a way that the material of the field of law appears systematically organized in the order of cases. This organization is clearly indicated by the titles of the separate parts of the book and the headings of subordinate sections. In each section the cases are again chosen to form a well-defined instructional whole. The case which shows the main principle is referred to as the “leading case,'; this comes first followed by cases intended to show individual extensions or limitations of the principle. As time passes the case-books are modified with new cases which continually create new law. The text-books used in the text-book method were also going through similar changes, they were continually advanced at frequent intervals, and brought up to the latest stage of literature and of the decisions of the highest court (32).
The case-books are now used everywhere in the same method of instruction. Each student thoroughly studies the cases and strives to perfect all the facts involved as well as the rule of law. Usually students prepare a brief abstract and bring it to class. During the class period...