Vanderbilt Law Review


Edward Rubin

First Page



Here we are, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, using a model of legal education that was developed in the latter part of the nineteenth. Since that time, the nature of legal practice has changed, the concept of law has changed, the nature of academic inquiry has changed, and the theory of education has changed. Professional training programs in other fields have been redesigned many times to reflect current practice, theory, and pedagogy, but we legal educators are still doing the same basic thing we were doing one hundred and thirty years ago. Many law professors are conscientious and devoted teachers, and quite a few are inspired ones, but their efforts are constrained and hobbled by an educational model that treats the entire twentieth century as little more than a passing annoyance.

There has, of course, been a certain amount of lower-level change in the model of legal education during this period. Law schools have added, although not integrated, clinical programs into the remainder of the curriculum. They have also introduced courses reflecting new developments in law, although they rarely have penetrated the sacrosanct first year. Moreover, the demographics of law schools have kept pace with those of other university departments. Law schools' treat women, minorities, and gays is just as well, and sometimes better than other graduate school programs. Further, discrimination against Jews, which was rampant when the law school program was developed, is barely an institutional memory at present. Law school buildings have been regularly refurbished or rebuilt and are often some of the most modern and opulent facilities on campus; they are filled with up-to-date libraries, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, and sleek internet terminals. But the basic educational approach that law schools use remains essentially unchanged from the one that C.C. Langdell introduced at Harvard in the years following the Civil War.