Robin A. Boyle
‘‘Here’s a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there’s serious doubt about your becoming a lawyer.’’
In the 1970s movie The Paper Chase, these words were proclaimed by an intimidating contracts professor to a weary law student surrounded by his classmates in a large lecture hall, insinuating that he should quit law school. Although exaggerated, the movie nonetheless reflected some truths about how law teaching has been conducted. It is true that many law students feel alienated by traditional law school teaching methods because of their impersonal nature, as the movie scene depicted (Guinier, Fine, Balin, Bartow, & Stachel, 1994; Teich, 1986). Law professors who teach to diverse learning styles among their student population will likely diminish negative student reactions to classroom learning.
It is also true that like the movie The Paper Chase, law professors at American law schools traditionally have used two teaching approaches—the case method and the Socratic method (Friedman, 1985, p. 610). In using the case method, the professor asks students to study individual court cases on a particular legal topic. Students are expected to construct from cases an understanding of the overarching legal principles and laws. Thus, in order to know the forest, students initially learn about each tree.
To arouse students’ interest and to spark intellectual and analytical thinking about assigned cases, professors have used the Socratic method, which