Diary of a 1L
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Friday, October 03, 2003
11:28 PM

Whooo! Fall break! Now I actually get time to think about what I think about law school so far.

One thing about law school is that it is slavishly devoted to tradition. Consider this: why did Langdell invent casebooks for the "case method"? Here's a description of why he wrote the first casebook ever:

A response to the European educational practice of the expository textbook as the basis of study, Langdell invented herein the use of original authorities to teach legal principles in his classes at Harvard. He posted lists of leading cases on the bulletin boards or announced them in class beforehand. The students prepared for class by going to the library, taking down the reports, and studying them. The process was both injurious to the library collection and inconvenient for the students [emphasis added]. It was very soon apparent to Langdell that having done away with the traditional textbook, the law library was not a satisfactory alternative. No library had, or could afford, the number of duplicate volumes of the court reports that were required so that all students could have easy and equal access to the cases. Langdell's solution was the casebook. This innovation in legal education publishing led to the proliferation of casebooks that continue today.

Now, consider the paragraph above very carefully. What do we have now that we didn't have back then? Hmmmmm....WESTLAW!!! And free printing! Why do we still need casebooks for $100 each???

Why is law school three years long? Why not more or less? Why are our first year classes the ones that they are? Why not spend three years studying those core areas, which are apparently important enough that everyone must know them? What the heck did we do in college that was so important to prepare us for law school? I think a smart and motivated high school graduate could do just fine in law school.

I cynically suspect that everything fixed and traditional in law education serves, whether intentionally or not, to preserve the maximum amount of money and power for the existing cadre of attorneys. We shall see!

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