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Sunday, June 27, 2021

What the Best Law Schools Don't Teach

     For generations, many of our best law schools have failed in their mission to educate first-rate trial lawyers. Indeed, it is fair to say that most first-rate trial lawyers did not attend first-rate law schools. The law school at which I teach--Harvard--bears some of the responsibility. Back in the nineteenth century, its dean, Christopher Columbus Langdell, developed the appellate-case method of teaching substantive law, legal doctrine, legal theory and procedure. Emphasis is placed on appellate decision--that is, opinions rendered by courts of appeals, primarily on issues of law...

     What American law schools often do not teach--at least do not teach well enough--are the basic skills of advocacy: how to prepare a case, how to examine a witness, how to argue before a jury, how to write a brief and how to argue before appellate judges. One of the understandable reasons why law professors don't emphasize these skills is that many of them simply do not have experience or expertise in them. Law professors are selected, at least in many schools, not because of their skills as practicing lawyers, but because of their reputations as legal scholars and teachers.

Alan Dershowitz, Letters To A Young Lawyer, 2001

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