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April 11, 2019


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Duncan McCloud

I've always wondered what Taney was thinking when he wrote the Dred Scott decision. He believed that slavery was evil and had freed his slaves before this case. He also believed in federal power. Perhaps he really did think that slavery's legality should be left to state law. Any thoughts?

Patrick S. O'Donnell

It is both refreshing and encouraging to read Stern's response to what you wrote.


It may seem strange that I'm defending law schools - but....

Because I have practiced in so many places I have encountered a number of lawyers trained primarily through the apprenticeship system - and indeed, it is/was partially how many common law countries trained solicitors and barristers. I tend to do rather complex work and this may impact my outlook, but my concern with "law office training," i.e., training by doing, is that the apprentices largely only learn what the law office does, that their legal knowledge is narrow and that this can prove pretty dangerous when cases turn complex.

I would add though, that narrow training an experience is also a factor in BigLaw - that very large law firms have highly compartmentalised practices, which can mean that associates in those firms gain a very narrow legal experience.

I do not know about California, but in the UK, Ireland, etc. the concern about a broader foundation for non-law graduate apprentices has led to broader training requirements. This has been in some respects a positive development, because it makes it easier to find lawyers who have a broader background in say science and engineering than the typical BL.


Steve writes, "As Stern put it, "if you 'read law' in California, you’d better intend to practice in California exclusively."

I formerly held that view, but things have changed a bit. Practice before federal agencies, practice within a corporation or organization, practices restricted to certain types of federal law, practice within teams that typically get pro hac vice admission into federal court litigation, and other modes of practice have changed the landscape considerably. There is a lot more freedom to operate than there once was.

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