Document Type


Publication Date



The president of a liberal arts college, if asked why college is worthwhile, would be able to respond on several levels. He or she would certainly say something about the value of the degree as a credential to help students get a job or get into graduate school. In addition, he or she would likely emphasize the professional value of the skills and capacities developed through a liberal education, which can help students succeed at work or in graduate school. More deeply, however, we would expect that he or she would have something to say about the intrinsic value of the education and experience itself—why a thoughtful person might want to go to college, apart from the work it might help one get or do.

I believe that something similar can be said about law school. The legal academy and profession are confronting difficult questions about the value of legal education—about whether and how law school is worthwhile. Most of this conversation appropriately focuses on the commercial and professional value of a legal education because that is the main reason people go to law school— to qualify and prepare for careers. Here, I hope to add to the conversation by considering a set of ways in which law school, like a liberal arts undergraduate education, may be valuable to a thoughtful person apart from its instrumental value in qualifying and preparing one for work. How might legal education help one to thrive, to live a full and satisfying and meaningful life?


© 2013 Association of American Law Schools. For permission to use copyright-protected JLE material and other copyright questions, contact Originally published as Clark, Sherman J. "Law School as Liberal Education." Journal of Legal Education 63, no. 2 (2013): 235-246.