Bond University

Article Title

The Status of American Legal Education


Legal academics in Australasia must get tired of the constant run of reports on various aspects of American legal education. In recent months, for example, there have been several articles on the ideological schools now contending in America, including law and economics, critical legal studies and feminism. Nevertheless, over the years American developments (notably the casebook, the so-called Socratic method, university law reviews and clinical legal education) have swayed legal education elsewhere in the English-speaking world. Moreover, trends in legal education, both good and bad, seem to begin in the United States and then spread abroad. On the theory that forewarned is forearmed, therefore, Australasian legal academics may find useful yet one more report from America. My objective in this paper is a little different from that in the Legal Education Review articles cited above. Rather than plead the case for a specific doctrine, I will try to present a broad survey of practical and theoretical developments in the last twenty years of American legal education and thus attempt to describe its current status. My view is necessarily personal, based on my experiences in four American law schools, on discussions with colleagues at many more and on reading almost everything published recently on American legal education. My view will also be informal. It is not based on any scientific survey and apart from references to pertinent articles I will not burden my remarks with extensive documentation. The paper should, therefore, be taken for what it is, a reflective analysis of a subject that has been dear to me for my entire professional life.

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