The practice of law, in my opinion and experience, is not ultimately about knowing the law. It’s about delivering a service that solves a problem for a client, in which knowledge of the law is one of many important tools.
The father of the modern American law school curriculum, Christopher Columbus Langdell, had a different view. As Langdell explained in his casebook on Contracts, to him the essence of being a lawyer was nothing more than having a mastery of the principles of the law.
Langdell’s view, not mine, is the one embedded in the DNA of the modern law school, both in what is taught and in terms of the scholarship undertaken by law school faculty. The core methodology taught in most American law schools teaches students how to read and apply cases, developing the mastery of legal principles glorified by Langdell.
Just as significantly, the research conducted by law school professors tends to be inward looking and centered on analyzing rules of law within a largely closed system. While law review articles have moved away from the practitioner friendly compendiums of earlier eras, both modern normative and theoretical scholarship tends to turn on thinking about rules of law.
The real world processes of legal services get short shrift. That should change.