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November 30, 2012

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Matt

Law was one of the traditional subjects taught in medieval universities (along w/ "arts" (liberal arts), medicine, and theology), starting at least in the 11th century in Spain, France, England and Italy, so it's a pretty long tradition. Obviously, law (like medicine) has been taught in other settings, too, but it has been in universities since their earliest days, it seems.

Jacqueline Lipton

That's true, Matt, but it was traditionally always an academic discipline at universities that was augmented by years of practical legal training before one could hang out a shingle. That's still the case in England and Australia. Why is it different here?

Bill Reynolds

We require a bachelor's degree in order to make it harder to enter the profession. The BA, in other words, is a restrictive device to keep out immigrants.

Pam

Traditionally law was learned as an apprentice. Then, the ABA got involved. Wikipedia has a broad account. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_school_in_the_United_States

Ian Holloway

Matt - it's true that "law" has been taught at universities for centuries, but that was Roman law, as a part of a classical education. The common law in a university setting is of relatively recent origin. Sir William Blackstone occupied the very first common law professorship (at Oxford) in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. Jacquie is right - we're Johnnies come lately in this game.

Steve Sheppard

There are a number of good books on this: Stevens, Law School is the standard. The immediate prelude to the current scene is well described by William LaPiana. I have a collection on it, The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentary and Primary Materials. There are excellent histories of given schools, such as Laura Kalman's of Yale.

Despite the argument that law school is a tool of monopoly, the primary reason for it, and for requiring it, is to ensure a baseline of education in general, legal knowledge, analytic skill, and professional engagement before taking an exam on the minimal rules of the law.

Laura

Not to toot my own horn, Jacqui, but many moons ago I wrote an article addressing this exact question:

"THE RISE OF THE MODERN AMERICAN LAW SCHOOL: HOW PROFESSIONALIZATION, GERMAN SCHOLARSHIP, AND LEGAL REFORM SHAPED OUR SYSTEM OF LEGAL EDUCATION," 39 New Eng. L. Rev. 251 (2005).

It explains how we got to the modern American law school in much more detail than you could possibly ever need!

Jacqui Lipton

Thanks Laura and Steve. I will look into your work with interest.
Re Steve's baseline level of education point, I agree with the importance of a baseline level of education for lawyers but wonder if academic institutions are the best places to go for it. Between U.S. law schools and the bar exam, no one is really giving a solid baseline level of education in practical skills, unlike the situation in countries where professional training school (or articled clerkships) are the norm instead of a bar exam.

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