In an address to the HLS community this April, Dean Martha Minow offered a survey of “The Past, Present, and Future of Legal Education.”
Minow called the present “a time of innovation and a time of renewal” in legal education. She described the development of the study of law internationally in recent years, and cited the creation of new law schools in India and China and a revamped legal study program at McGill University in Canada as evidence of increasing interest in the globalization of legal education.
Identifying the multiple goals of law schools, Minow said, “We want pure academic inquiry. We also want to engage critique of law as it operates in society, and we also want to assist a profession that is itself caught between doing well and doing good—serving the haves and the have-nots.”
She identified three historical stages of legal education in the U.S.: a period prior to the Industrial Revolution in which lawyers were primarily trained through apprenticeship; a period that began in the 19th century in which Harvard led the charge to create a systematized, university-based approach to legal education dominated by the case method; and the period from 1935 through 2003, in which law schools added many electives but kept the common law at the core of the curriculum and the case method.
Minow talked about legal education today, describing reforms that HLS began exploring in 2003, culminating in the school’s revamped curriculum in 2007, which includes new required first-year courses in international law, legislation, and regulation, and the first-year Problem Solving Workshop. She also noted that the recent financial crisis has accentuated the need for “lawyers who have long-term and systemic thinking capacity about risk, regulation and institutional design.”
She concluded with a discussion of her views on where legal education is headed in the near future. She predicted that lawyers will have opportunities to play new and important roles in response to dramatic economic, technological, and social changes presented by new communications technologies, biological and biotechnology research, and globalization.
Minow said that in reviewing their business models, law schools should consider how their educational missions could be more closely connected to meeting society’s most pressing challenges—such as corporate governance, the governance of the Internet, access to legal services, energy and environmental regulation, and strengthening the rule of law in fragile societies.