History of the American Legal Profession and Legal Education – 6614

NOTE: LL.M. students may request instructor permission to enroll.

The history of the American legal profession and legal education is characterized by intersections, interactions, and transformations. The seminar will cover the underpinnings of the American legal profession and legal educational system with their changing models, methods, and values. The course will examine the origins of this history from its beginnings in medieval Italy to the Inns of Court in London to the earliest settlements in the colonies. The seminar will proceed to analyze the development after 1783 of the uniquely American approach to lawyer training and the practice of law. Students will study the emergence in the 19th century of the American model of institutional legal education, with a focus on Christopher Columbus Langdell's "case method," and the development of the "Cravath system" of organizing and managing a legal practice.

The students will be exposed to the change and growth of law practice and law schools following both world wars, influenced by economic booms and busts, the expansion of the federal regulatory system, the acknowledgement that substantive knowledge and practical skills are equally essential to legal training, the increasing pressure to ensure equal access to legal education and legal representation for all segments of society, and the growing focus on social, environmental, and international concerns. The course will trace how the interrelationship of American law, society, economics, and ideologies have dramatically changed the practice of law as well as the priorities, policies, curriculums, and cultures of law schools. The seminar will conclude with an analysis of the current state of the legal profession and legal education. A unique and important aspect of the course will be the integration of material from the Law Library's Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection.


JD only

Graduation Requirements
Upper Division Legal Writing
Subject Area
Legal History
Student Year
Upper Division
Grade base
A - F
Course type