Law Quadrangle (formerly Law Quad Notes)


Professor Schneider gave this talk at Honors Convocation in May 1994

We are gathered here to honor you for your seriousness about and success in your legal education. It is fitting and proper that we should do this, for law is a learned profession, and mastery of it is a critical and continuing duty, as well, I hope, as a pleasure. But this convocation is also, as Holmes put it, a time when the Law School "becomes conscious of itself and its meaning". I want to combine these two purposes by discussing with you our common enterprise of education for a learned profession. Specifically, I want to consider a distinctive feature of legal education, the Socratic method.

My thesis is this: the Socratic method is not dead. Perhaps it is not even dying. But it has entered a frail and faltering old age. Fewer and fewer classes are taught Socratically. And when they are, it is often in ways that effectively limit the method's range, so that, for example, only volunteers or students warned in advance are called on. I want to ask how this change has come about and whether it matters.