Logic and Experience: The Origin of Modern American Legal Education

By William P. Lapiana | Go to book overview

5

Harvard and the Legal World

The success of the reformed Harvard Law School was no foregone conclusion. The creation of a new sort of law school caused internal stresses that lasted for much of the 1870s and 1880s. Even when the school could present a united front to the world, it was not always attractive. The academics' claim to a monopoly on understanding legal science, evident in Langdell's criticism of bar examinations, could ruffle the feathers of the profession. The bar, however, eventually learned to accommodate the new school with its claims to superiority in training lawyers. Moreover, doubts about the traditional system were not limited to academics. Some practitioners, especially in New York City, came to believe in the 1860s and 1870s that something had to be done to raise the standard of the bar, to put stricter controls on entry into the profession. Langdell, Eliot, and the reformed Harvard eventually proved to be allies.


The Struggle for Standards in New York

A typical lament about the current state of affairs can be found in Langdell's annual report for the 1876-1877 academic year. The dean berated the state for its role in regulating admission to the bar. Langdell first drew a distinction between the "counsellor," the accomplished master of legal science who argues before the higher courts and assists the judges in the elucidation of the law, and the "attorney," who deals with routine legal business. The formal requirements for admission are based on the idea, which Langdell maintained was widely held by the bar itself, that "age and experience alone are a sufficient warrant for assuming the position of a counsellor" and that the most that can be expected of new lawyers is that they be trained as attorneys. 1 Langdell seems to have accurately portrayed the antebellum system, when formal requirements for admission set by the state were the lowest common denominator. The prestige and quality of the profession was preserved through lawyerly control of the institutions important to admission -- the courts and the schools -- and by the identification of the profession with social class. These two mechanisms of control

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Logic and Experience: The Origin of Modern American Legal Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - Harvard's Transformation 7
  • 3 - Antebellum Legal Education 29
  • 4 - Case Method and Legal Science 55
  • 5 - Harvard and the Legal World 79
  • 6 - A New Legal Science 110
  • 7 - Opposition 132
  • 8 - Reconciliation 148
  • Epilogue 168
  • Notes 171
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 243
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