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October 01, 2013


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It is a disappointingly superficial article. Walker notes that there have been changes in legal education over the years but fails to address the important and meaningful question of how these changes have affected lawyers' ability to get jobs, help clients and contribute to society. Moreover, its not even clear he understands Llewellyn's points. He claims Llewellyn supported the case method in 1929, rejected it in the 30s and then supported it again in the 50s. However, the evidence he presents on Llewellyn's attitude in the 30s only shows Llewellyn was critical of law school education then. This could have been because Llewellyn felt most law schools were not using the case method properly rather than feeling it should not be used at all.

Moreover Walker ignores an obvious question which raises questions about the accuracy of his whole paper. If legal scholars in the depression really wanted interdisciplinary training why didn't they require applicants to law school to take specific courses (as medical schools do). For example, if law schools thought a lawyer needs to know economics, they could have required courses in economics to apply to law school, just as medical schools require biology and organic chemistry.

In all Walker's paper is yet another example of the inability of law school professors to think deeply about the important issues raised by the topics they address. In this way it is similar to Jeff Redding's bizarre complaints on this site that his students are unable to write decently (the obvious question is why his incredibly expensive law school admits students who are incapable of writing clearly). Instead Walker skims the surface reaching superficial and questionable conclusions. Walker is lucky he is a law professor. Work like this would be shredded in real litigation.

Alfred Brophy

Hi Anon,

You've raised some great issues, asked some important questions about legal education's commitment to reform in the Depression, and set out an ambitious research agenda. But you're asking the article to do more than it's attempting. Anders is focused on the changes in Llewellyn's thought as a gauge of changing attitudes towards professional education and interdisciplinary perspectives on law. Dealing with how, if at all, this affected lawyers' ability to get jobs is a different project -- also an enormously difficult one and can't be accomplished in one paper, I wouldn't think.

Larry Catá Bcaker

And the possibility of plural law degrees may indeed be in our future as we move from informal tracks to more formal segmentation.

Anders Walker

Bramble Bush Revisited looks less at the debate over how law school can be made more practical than it does at forces explaining why law schools moved into an academic mode in the first place (here, I share an interest with my SLU colleague Jeff Redding on the relationship between law schools and the university generally). My reading of the data suggests that for much of the 20th Century, universities exercised a consistent pressure on law schools to become more research oriented, more theoretical, and ultimately more like other university departments. Law schools moved willingly in this direction to gain academic legitimacy, first by offering plural degrees, and then by endorsing inter-disciplinary work. Though the current trend is to focus on practical skills, I think it is worth imagining what it would be like for law schools to turn their backs completely on the university. Would they be better off? Not even the harshest critics of legal education seem willing to openly contemplate such a move. Why?


Unfortunately, while the DISCUSSION of law school reform may focus on "practical skills" the reality of the current law school model allows only for electives to learn "practical skills" that are often worthless in terms of practical training.
This sorry state of affairs is often the product of the tenured faculty's unwillingness to afford equal status to the lesser humans who practice (or teach the practice of) law.
This has nothing to do with university presssure. It is just status-seeking, as is the trend in recent years to recruit Ph.D.s whose focus is the "intersection" between "law and ...": in other words, anything the Ph.D. cares to study with a sort of bogus claim of a connection to law that exists with respect to every aspect of human affairs in any event.

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