Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Innovation in Legal Studies Education: An Integrated Case Study Approach

Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Innovation in Legal Studies Education: An Integrated Case Study Approach

Article excerpt


Using case studies to enhance students' understanding of theoretical concepts is a well-accepted and widely used method in business and management courses. In legal studies, the case method has a much different meaning and purpose; students read judicial decisions and, through inductive reasoning, determine the judicial precedents that establish our common law. More recently, legal scholars have suggested that using case studies in a manner similar to that of business school classes can be a valuable tool to enhance subjects taught in a law curriculum. This paper supports this view and suggests that an integrated case study can be used in two or more courses. We discuss the benefits as well as the problems of using a case study in three undergraduate legal studies courses, Legal Research, the American System of Trial by Jury, and Mock Trial.

I. Introduction

When legal scholars refer to the case method of legal instruction, the traditional Landgellian approach of studying cases combined with Socratic questioning comes to mind.1 Despite its popularity, however, the case method has been assailed as inadequately training students for the practice of law.2 Among its limitations, the case method approach places excessive emphasis on court decisions and ignores the way that most people resolve disputes.3 In its place, many legal scholars argue that using case studies, similar to those used in business and economics courses, are better tools for teaching law students to make rational and informed business decisions. Moreover, it has been suggested that a single case study may be used in more than one course.5 This paper discusses the use of case studies in business schools and their more recent application in legal studies courses. It then describes the integrated use of a case study in three courses in an undergraduate legal studies program.


With their introduction by the Harvard Business School in 1925, case studies have been widely used in business schools to provide students with a context in which to apply basic business principles learned in class.6 Almost 100 years ago Harvard Business School Dean Edwin Gay encouraged business school faculty to integrate real-world concepts and experiences in what and how they taught.7 Case studies are particularly effective because they involve real-life, often well known, scenarios or stories where the players face issues that require resolution, thus providing students with a chance to test their book learning and to make decisions.8 In a more recent discourse on the value of case studies in business education, Professor David A. Garvin notes that the case study provides a classroom substitute for experience; it is "the vehicle by which a chunk of reality is brought into the classroom to be worked over by the class and the instructor."9 Thus, using case studies redefines the "traditional educational dynamic in which the professor dispenses knowledge and students passively receive."10 A case study allows students to learn by not only simply absorbing facts and theories, but also by exercising the skills of leadership and team work to solve real problems.

Generally, case studies used in business schools are written by professors at major case study teaching universities, such as Harvard, INSEAD, and the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Cases typically focus on a focal firm and contain both primary sources of data, such as interviews with managers, and secondary sources, such as press releases and annual report data. 12 They also cover a chronology of significant events and information about the company's industry and competitors13 which provide the basis for the issues that the students are expected to analyze and discuss.14

Since their introduction almost 100 years ago, the advantages and disadvantages of using case studies have been debated. Undoubtedly the case study approach has become an indispensable tool in business education courses as they incorporate experiential learning which allows students to reflect the real world environment,15 especially in management courses where teaching students "things" about management is not teaching them how to manage. …

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