The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think like a Lawyer"

By Elizabeth Mertz | Go to book overview
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Professorial Style in Context

In this chapter, we survey the variety of classroom styles found among the professors in the study. It is important to remember that there are continuities to be found across these differences in style, as outlined in Part II. These continuities were not only matters of the content of the lesson conveyed or of common orientations regarding the correct reading of legal texts, the importance of hierarchies of legal authority, and so forth. As we've seen, there were also similarities of discursive form and structure. For example, even teachers who employed a great deal of lecture nonetheless replicated aspects of dialogic form within their own turns, and when they did call on students there were similarities of approach to be found in the questioning. And all of the professors employed exegetical lecturing, sometimes for long periods of time, sometimes interspersed with ongoing questioning of students. At the same time, there was considerable variability among the professors in terms of discourse style. After surveying the variations among classrooms in detail, we return at the end of this chapter to the question of assessing similarities and differences in professorial style, seen now in terms of the contexts provided by social patterning.

A Diverse Range of Styles

One of the most fascinating aspects of law school classroom discourse uncovered by this study is the combination of underlying structural similarities with, on the surface, a startling array of diverse teaching styles. At one end of the spectrum, we find the most highly stylized Socratic classroom, with heavily structured dialogue dominating (represented here by one of the pilot study classrooms). More common in this study were mixed formats of various kinds. For example, in modified


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The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think like a Lawyer"


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