COMMENTARY - COMMENTARY: THERE'S MADNESS IN THE METHOD: A...

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COMMENTARY: THERE'S MADNESS IN THE METHOD: A COMMENTARY ON LAW, STATISTICS, AND THE NATURE OF LEGAL EDUCATION NAME: Steven B. Dow* BIO: * School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University; J.D., Ohio State University, 1978; Ph.D., The University of Michigan, 1999. The author wishes to thank Dr. Edmund McGarrell and Dr. Christopher E. Smith, both of Michigan State University, School of Criminal Justice, and Anne M. Corbin, J.D., for their comments on an earlier draft of this commentary. Errors and omissions are the responsibility of the author. HIGHLIGHT: Judges commonly are elderly men, and are more likely to hate at sight any analysis to which they are not accustomed, and which disturbs repose of mind . . . . - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1 TEXT: [*579] Introduction Professional legal education is unique among all of the university graduate- level programs in the natural and social sciences in not requiring at least a basic level of competency in statistics and quantitative methods. As these other disciplines are becoming more quantitative, the dominant paradigm in legal education remains largely unchanged. To understand the reason for this puzzling situation and see its implications for law, we must start by looking at the history of legal education. A little over a century ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., then a justice on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, opined that the lawyer of the future would be skilled in "statistics and the master of economics." 2 Holmes was commenting on the state of legal education, dominated at that time by Harvard Law School. Holmes's remark was a not-
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so-thinly-veiled attack on the leading figure in legal education, Christopher Columbus Langdell, and the educational system he had established at Harvard. Langdell, dean of the law school from 1870 to 1895, 3 was responsible for shaping legal education at Harvard. Not only was Harvard the first university- [*580] affiliated law school, 4 but it was also the most influential law school, setting the trend for professional legal education throughout the United States. 5 The nature of legal education at Langdell's Harvard is not merely a matter of historical interest; it is pertinent to this Commentary because not only did Harvard set the trend for legal education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but the fundamentals of legal education have changed very little over the intervening century. 6 Therefore, understanding the history of legal education at Harvard is crucial to understanding the nature of contemporary legal education. Langdell and the Origins of American Legal Education Before the rapid growth of American law schools during the second half of the nineteenth century, aspiring lawyers mainly were educated through an apprentice system. 7
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COMMENTARY - COMMENTARY: THERE'S MADNESS IN THE METHOD: A...

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