Wake Forest Law Review publishes one-of-a-kind book on legal education reform

Photo of book cover with painting of male with white beard with text, 'Revisiting Langdell Legal Education Refore and the Lawyer's Craft Wake Forest Law Review'

Looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for legal educator, lawyer or soon-to-be lawyer? Wake Forest Law Review has published a one-of-a-kind book reproducing Volume 51 of the 2015 Wake Forest Law Review Symposium on Langdell and legal education reform, “Revisiting Langdell: Legal Education Reform and the Lawyer’s Craft.”

“Due to its importance for legal education reform and for ease of scholarly citation to the included articles, this volume is reproduced in original form,” according to Professor Harold Lloyd, who helped organize the symposium along with Professor Christine Nero Coughlin (JD ’90), who is also director of the law schools Legal Analysis, Research & Writing (LAWR) program. Professor Lloyd also shepherded the publication of the book, which can be purchased on Amazon.

“I hope it inspires a trend both at Wake Forest and other law schools and institutions,” Lloyd says. “The symposium shows Wake Forest’s deep concern for the future of legal education and its desire to lead in this area. Its low price hopefully helps us disseminate the useful scholarship from the symposium.”

Professor Lloyd says he thought carefully about what should be on the cover.  “I wanted something that expands upon the symposium’s claims that we need more humanities as well as practical instruction in legal education.  I therefore chose a highlight of one of William Blake’s prints of Urizen as lifeless and blind reason.  I find the cover appropriate not only because it brings in the humanities and because Urizen resembles Langdell.  I also find it appropriate because the symposium discussed how many (including me) think that Langdell took much of the life and light out of legal education.”

Following is the abstract for Professor Lloyd’s introductory article:

As an introduction to the Wake Forest Law Review’s symposium edition on “Revisiting Langdell: Legal Education Reform and the Lawyer’s Craft,” this article highlights longstanding, substantial damage Christopher Columbus Langdell has inflicted on law schools and legal education. Much of this damage stems from three of Langdell’s wrong and counterintuitive notions: (1) law is a science of principles and doctrines known with certainty and primarily traced through case law; (2) studying redacted appellate cases is “much the shortest and best, if not the only way” of learning such law, and (3) despite Langdell’s own roughly fifteen years of practice experience, practice experience taints one’s ability to teach law. This article highlights problems with, and harms resulting from, each of these wrong notions. Among other things, this article explores: (A) contradictions, oversights, and wrong assumptions in Langdell’s views; (B) how the very meanings of “theory” and “practice” reject Langdell; (C) how the necessary role of experience in meaning itself rejects Langdell; (D) parallels between Langdell and unworkable Cartesian dualism; and (E) how the necessary role of framing in the law rejects Langdell. This article also briefly surveys some remedies suggested by reason, experience, common sense, and modern cognitive psychology. These include rejecting the redacted appellate case method as a primary mode of instruction, recognizing the necessary fusion of theory and practice, recognizing the need for practice experience in law professors, recognizing the embodied nature of meaning and the resulting role of practice and simulation in good legal education, embracing the humanities (including classical rhetoric) in legal education, abandoning meaningless distinctions such as distinctions between “doctrinal” and “non-doctrinal” courses, and abandoning “caste” systems demeaning those with law practice experience and elevating those who lack such necessary experience.