60 Vand. L. Rev. 597 (2007)
A Case for Another Case Method

handle is hein.journals/vanlr60 and id is 609 raw text is: A Case for Another Case Method

Todd D. Rakoff and Martha Minow*
American legal education is pretty good. Generally speaking, it
is rigorous, and generally speaking, students learn a lot. After three
years in law school, students usually leave not only with knowledge of
specific legal materials, but also with the sharp analytic skills and
ability to work in existing legal institutions that people expect from
lawyers. But our society is full of new problems demanding new
solutions. Less so than in the past-less than in the 1930s and less
than in the 1960s-are lawyers inventing those solutions. Much of the
action is moving to graduates trained in other disciplines and
professions, such as economics, political science, and business. In our
view, the stodginess of American legal education is partly to blame.
The plain fact is that American legal education, and especially
its formative first year, remains remarkably similar to the curriculum
invented at the Harvard Law School by Christopher Columbus
Langdell over a century and a quarter ago.1 Invented, that is, not just
before the Internet, but before the telephone; not just before man
reached the moon, but before he reached the North Pole; not just
before Foucault, but before Freud; not just before Brown v. Board of
Education, but before     Plessy  v. Ferguson. There     have   been
modifications, of course; but American legal education has been an
astonishingly stable cultural practice.
We leave to others in this Symposium the task of giving an
adequate historical and sociological account of the persistence of the
Landellian case method. As professors interested in how curriculum is
shaped, and how it could potentially be reshaped, we instead ask a
structural question: What is it in the design of Langdell's case method
*  Respectively Byrne Professor of Administrative Law and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor
of Law, Harvard Law School. We appreciate, and have profited from, the comments of our
colleague Scott Brewer.
1. That method itself echoed medieval casuistry. See generally ALBERT R. JONSEN &
STEPHEN TOULMIN, THE ABUSE OF CASUISTRY: A HISTORY OF MORAL REASONING 8-11, 16-332
(1988).
597

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