James R. Elkins

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What does it mean to have a law-trained mind? What kind of purposes and achievements are held out to those who seek schooling in law? What kind of failures are associated with those who adopt a legal mind-set? What happens to the moral sensibilities of those who follow the path of teachers who claim to teach you to "think like a lawyer"? How does a law education shape one's ethics and how is this education put to work in the practice of law? What do we become as a result of an education in law? These are difficult questions because they are at once simple and complex. The questions may look simple, but simple, straightforward, noncontroversial answers are not readily forthcoming.

When we try to say exactly what qualities we want those with a "legal education" to have (using quotation marks now to indicate that we are trying to be self-conscious about matters that we rarely consider) we find ourselves facing a set of questions that do not lend themselves to simple answers. We have different kinds of education in mind when we speak of "legal education." It is a matter of continuing concern among some law teachers that legal education should involve qualities that set it off from vocational or on-the-job training. ...

One wants to believe that something of value is produced when we teach law students "to think like lawyers." But when we subject the multiple assumptions built into this stock, conventional notion to the kind of inquiry that Socrates would have conducted (at least as his inquiries are passed on to us in Plato's versions of the Socratic dialogues), the notion may turn out to be more puzzling, confused, contradictory, mistaken, or incoherent than it first appeared.