Wake Forest Law Review fall 2015 symposium described as innovative in its approach to legal education reform

Photo of Professor Harold Lloyd moderating the Wake Forest Law Review symposium

Wake Forest Law Professor Harold Lloyd moderates the Wake Forest Law Review symposium.

The Wake Forest Law Review took on legal education reform at its fall symposium amid continued criticism that law schools need to do more to ensure graduates are practice ready. Why? Because law firms — and more importantly their clients — insist they don’t want to pay to train first-year associates. More than 150 participants attended the symposium, “Revisiting Langdell: Legal Education Reform and the Lawyer’s Craft,” which was held Oct. 23, 2015, at Wake Forest University, according to organizers.

Professor Chris Nero Coughlin, who co-moderated the symposium with Professor Harold Lloyd, described the event as both innovative and unique in its approach to legal education reform.

“There are many opinions and materials that focus solely on incorporating practical skills and experiential learning into the law school classroom,” Coughlin said. “The processes of reform and its corresponding challenges, however, are incredibly nuanced and difficult. The ideas generated by leading scholars from around the country, as well as well-respected legal practitioners, challenged the theoretical and historical basis for why law schools use the Langdellian method and identified how incorporating humanities could provide for a more meaningful legal education experience.”

George Washington University Law School Dean Blake Morant echoed the importance of the discussion in his role as not only dean of one of the nation’s top law schools but as president of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). Dean Morant, former dean of Wake Forest Law, led a conversational lecture about whether the traditional Langdellian method is the best method to improve critical thinking skills given the pressures from the market to have ready-to practice lawyers.

“We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water…but I don’t know a single law school in the U.S. that’s not trying to adapt,” he said.

Dean Suzanne Reynolds (JD ’77) gave opening remarks at the symposium that expanded on Professor Lloyd’s article, “Exercising Common Sense, Exorcising Langdell: The Inseparability of Legal Theory, Practice and the Humanities,” and looked beyond Langdell’s “Socratic” method, which focused on redacted appellate cases, to explore a richer theoretical understanding of legal education, scholarship and the lawyer’s craft.

“I’m very proud of the excellent way the Symposium Editors Madison Benedict (JD ’16) and Lauren Emery (JD ’16) and the other members of the Law Review put together and publicized this packed event,” Professor Lloyd said. “I’m also very proud of Wake Forest Law Review for hosting such a progressive symposium. Tackling these issues is just one of the many ways that Wake Forest Law is at the forefront of legal education reform.”

As part of the symposium, participants discussed the impact of human resources in law schools’ teaching environments and the fusion of legal theory and practice, among other issues.

Lauren Emery (JD '16) and Madison Benedict (JD '16)

Lauren Emery (JD ’16) and Madison Benedict (JD ’16)

“It was wonderful to have some of the foremost scholars in the country share their ideas for alternatives to Langdell’s case-centered model of legal education,” Emery said following the event. “Students, legal educators and practicing attorneys alike enjoyed the opportunity to envision other models of education that would better prepare future lawyers for the tasks and challenges they will face in practice.”

Benedict added, “The Wake Forest Law Review is extremely privileged to be at the forefront of the discussion going on in law schools across the country about the best approaches to legal education reform. We hope that this symposium, and the issue of the Law Review that will publish the discussions within, will compel educators, administrators and students alike to think critically about how law schools should be educating future lawyers.”

Other symposium speakers included Roy Stuckey, University of South Carolina School of Law; Mary Beth Beazley, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; Michael Higdon, The University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law; Steve Virgil, Wake Forest University School of Law; Jim Fox, Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A.; Michael Andersen, Troutman Sanders LLP; Alex Maultsby, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP; Shannon Joseph, Morningstar Law Group; Linda Edwards, University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law; Kristen Tiscione, Georgetown Law; and Deborah Merritt, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.


Law Review Symposium "Revisiting Langdell" speakers and editors

Law Review Symposium “Revisiting Langdell” speakers and editors

To learn more about the Wake Forest Law Review, visit the website.

View more photos from the symposium here.