Logic and Experience: The Origin of Modern American Legal Education

By William P. Lapiana | Go to book overview
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Despite the victory in Chicago, the rise to dominance of the Harvard model of legal education was not a triumphal progress. Within the school, debate and dissension went on for decades. Elsewhere, in writings about the training of aspiring lawyers, criticism of Harvard's methods was constant. This criticism occurred in two phases. In the first phase, impracticality in Harvard's methods was asserted. The belief that "instruction at [ Harvard Law School] was particularly technical and historical, and when completed, necessitated an apprenticeship in some good attorney's office," found expression in the founding of Boston University Law School. 1 There teachers familiar with the practice of law offered not only an introduction to the science of law but also training designed to enable students to enter active practice on graduation. 2 Similar concerns surfaced in the debate about the diploma privilege in New York. The Albany Law Journal printed several editorials in the early and mid-1870s advocating legal education that would "familiarize [the student] with the details of practice and the examination of witnesses." 3 The imposition of a clerkship requirement by the court of appeals and its acceptance by Eliot and Langdell went far to answering these objections.

In the second phase of criticism, which became evident after the turmoil at Columbia in the early 1890s, more far-reaching issues were involved. By the turn of the century the contest between the case method schools and those offering traditional forms of legal education had become to a great extent a contest between two opposing visions of the nature of law.

The Case Lawyer

Early discussions of the usefulness of the case method dealt mainly with its origin in and perpetuation of Langdell's supposedly excessive theorizing. The premises of discussions about methods in legal education changed about the time of the changes at Columbia. By then the principal complaint was that the case method was too practical. In the view of critics, the case method produced "case lawyers," a reprehensible subspecies of the


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Logic and Experience: The Origin of Modern American Legal Education


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