Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1908

Abstract

The notion that the teaching of the law is quite as much a profession as is the practice of it, and that it demands an intellectual equipment of a high order, is probably gaining ground. It is fully recognized by those who understand what systematic legal education, as carried on to-day in our leading law schools, really is. But as yet the majority of laymen, and very many lawyers, probably most lawyers who were educated under the old regime as well as most of those who have come to the bar through the law office, fail to appreciate the full significance of the calling of the modern law teacher and to give to him the recognition to which, by reason of his work and influence in his special field, he is entitled. They think of him either as a lawyer in full practice and a teacher only as his professional engagements permit, or as a judge upon the bench and a teacher incidentally, or as one who has failed at the bar and is teaching law because unequal to what they regard as the more strenuous and virile work of the practitioner. This is natural, for undoubtedly a majority of the law teachers of the last generation were practitioners or judges first, and teachers only to the extent that private business or judicial duties would permit; and it is the law teacher of the last generation with whom the public and members of the profession to which reference has been made are most familiar. It was, of course, the fact that it sometimes happened, particularly in the older eastern university schools, that a distinguished practitioner abandoned his work at the bar, or that a judge resigned from the bench, to accept a law professorship as his chief occupation; but in the country generally it was the exception for a person to choose the teaching of the law as a life calling, and but few of the schools had upon their faculties any considerable number of men who were devoting their predominant energies to the work of legal education. These statements have reference to conditions after regular law schools had been established, and not to earlier times, when in several of the universities there were professorships of law which in some instances were filled by resident instructors. The law school of thirty years ago, even the university law school, was certainly a very different place from the law school of to-day. While the attitude of its faculty toward the work of teaching and in regard to the cause of sound legal learning may not have been one of indifference, it was yet the attitude that naturally and inevitably comes from such a situation, an attitude that prompts a person to give his best thought and to exert his best energies along the lines of the dominating interest. And so it was that under the old regime the law teacher, as a rule, exercised an influence upon the profession and upon the jurisprudence of the country, not so much through his work as a teacher as through his labors at the bar or upon the bench or in the field of authorship. With few exceptions, the law teacher of the last generation was a law teacher only as an incident. On account of the attitude of the profession toward the schools, which was distinctly hostile, he was not always sure, probably, as to the real value of his work as a teacher. In a word, the conditions dominating legal education were such that the man of force and learning and constructive ability would rarely consecrate his life and energy to that cause alone.


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