Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1906

Abstract

That acute observer and commentator on American institutions, James Bryce, in an oft-quoted statement in his American Commonwealth, pays a high tribute to the efficiency of American law schools. "I do not know if there is anything," he writes, "in which America has advanced more beyond the mother country than in the provision she makes for legal education." In passing this generous judgment, in which many other eminent Englishmen have concurred, he views our law schools simply as institutions for developing technical proficiency among students destined to fill the ranks of the legal profession. And this is, indeed, the principal purpose for which they came into existence, and the chief end which they serve. Our law schools are in constant and close touch with the bar. The great majority of men upon their teaching staffs are recruited from active practitioners of the law. The American Bar Association, founded and maintained to promote the higher ideals of professional life, keeps watch and ward over the educational standards which they preserve, regarding them as training schools for lawyers. Viewed from this standpoint they are undoubtedly proceeding along sound and sensible lines, and are fitting young men for the bar with a thoroughness which well deserves the praises which have been given them. But all this assumes that the law is and should be a professional monopoly; that it should be taught solely as a technical training for professional life. Such a view is narrow and false, but not altogether to be wondered at. Lawyers control the law schools, and lawyers look upon the law as belonging exclusively to them. They, only, know and understand the law, and to them it is primarily a great and noble field for professional labors and professional rewards. Those outside its magic portals know not its rich and precious treasures; those within find no reason to herald abroad a wealth which they deem visible only to the eyes of the initiated. Hence we see the spectacle of our great American universities, splendidly equipped with the means of giving to the youth of the nation instruction in all the wisdom of the earth, closing the doors of their law departments against all except those who come to enter the novitiate for the bar. Why should those thousands of students, who seek at the university an insight into the wonders of human knowledge and experience, a stimulus to vigorous thinking, and a basis for a broad and generous culture, be denied all access to the treasure chambers of the law? I believe that the present system de-bars the young men and women of this country from a great field of knowledge which is unexcelled as a discipline, of unique and universal practical value, and of surpassing and solid worth as a foundation for culture and character.


Share

COinS