01 March 2007

Maule On Law School

James Maule, at his blog, does a great job of summing up the debate over law school reform, with considerable original insight of his own.

But, the denunciations of the flaws in American legal education, from all sides, do need a little tempering. As bad as American legal education may be, by comparison with how those in civil law countries teach law, American law schools are off the charts outstanding in the quality of education they are providing.

As a general rule, American law school classes require students to think on the spot, consider the hard cases, and address practical issues that can come up in litigation by thinking about cases from the perspective of the litigants.

In contrast, European and other civil law country law school classes tend to focus on abstract legal theory (often apart from actual cases all together), focus on the "heartland" cases rather than the close cases, are normally delivered via exceeding dry lectures delivered to very large classes without interaction, and have far less accessible professors. This is somewhat ironic, as European law professors tend to have, through their scholarship, more of an impact on how the law is actually applied than American law professors, and because junior European law professors are more likely to have an active, part-time practice of law than American law professors.

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