Curricular reform conversations are valuable as a process of continually thinking about, and discussing, the form that a "proper" legal education should take. The key concepts here are "conversations" and "process," for I would immediately suggest that the "substance" of whatever curricular reform that is created at the back end of this conversational process is itself of little importance or interest. That is to say, in the grand scheme of ideas concerning legal education, the specific ordering of courses and the particular list of required courses are of relatively minor importance in the development of a healthy curriculum.
I offer here a few thoughts concerning what I consider to be the essential center of all legal education, an education in many ways unlike any other. It will become clear that in my view legal education has two primary goals: to train legal practitioners and, no less importantly, to prepare lawyers for a central role in the governance of our country.
As to a couple of introductory matters, I believe that the curriculum should be designed with the overriding purpose of serving the consumers of the product, the students, to prepare them to be excellent practitioners of this practice we call the law. This overriding purpose should taught and what the basic content of each course should be. These decisions should be based primarily on pedagogical purposes, as opposed to faculty preferences concerning when they want to teach and what subjects they favor.
These decisions focus on the content of the curriculum, but specific content decisions are of lesser importance than decisions about the context in which that content is held. Tb speak generally about what lessons I believe should be taught in a law school in terms of the context in which a lawyer works, as opposed to the content of specific areas of law, requires a proper understanding of that context, and how that context should be taught. As an overview, I would assert the following brief description of what a legal education should be about, on the level of context.
The education of a law student should, above all, create in the student a sense of wonder concerning the openness and discretion in the legal system when dealing with problems that we characterize as "legal." Law students need to experience on an intellectual and emotional level an understanding that there are no answers to the fundamental questions that arise in a legal context, and the questions are handled not by searching irritably for the answer,' but by conducting a conversation carried on in the institutionalized framework of our legal system-a framework that has evolved as a means of enabling legal adversaries to seek a common ground. In this conversation we are not seeking a discoverable, true answer to a problem; rather, we seek clarity about who we are and what values we are willing to espouse.
Cole, John O.
"Thoughts on Legal Education, the Curriculum, and the Importance of Process Over Substance,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 63:
3, Article 11.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol63/iss3/11