Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Curricular Reform

Professors on the Civil Procedure professor listserv are debating the recurring question of why we devote so much energy to topics that come up only rarely in practice, particularly personal jurisdiction and Erie. Some are suggesting that the civil procedure curriculum should be much more practice oriented, which would mean spending a lot less time on these subjects and more time on what most lawyers actually do in practice, particularly discovery.

I think it is an error to imagine that the law school class time devoted to a particular subject needs to be proportional to the time students will spend on that subject in actual practice. Law school is partly about acquiring particular skills and knowledge, but also, and probably more, about acuqiring the ability to acquire skills and knowledge. We will never teach the students all they will need to know as they practice law, but we can teach them how to learn what they need to know.

The amount of time devoted to personal jurisdiction and Erie in many Civ Pro classes makes little sense in terms of the practical importance of those topics in typical litigation. But personal jurisdiction provides a lovely illustration of the process of legal change over time that students can appreciate as the law they learn changes over the course of their careers, and Erie provides an illustration about how imoprtant theoretical issues relating to federalism impact practical doctrines. The students need to know how to appreciate the ways in which legal change interacts with social change and the ways in which theory impacts doctrine just as much as they need to learn what Rule 26 says about discovery and disclosure.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I have indeed used my civil procedure notes on personal jurisdiction to write a memo.