A blog post in the esteemed Wall Street Journal Law Blog on Tuesday has me facing a tough brain-teaser. A researcher (and law professor) makes the case that traditional legal education exercises only one portion of students’ brains. Professor Paula Franzese says that the law school classroom gives short shrift to what’s commonly called the creative side of the brain.
Hemispherically speaking, she says, law schools head only half-way ‘round the world, and take three years to do it.
Here’s the professor:
“‘Much of what we tend to do in the law school classroom is aimed at honing left-brain thinking,’ writes Ms. Franzese in a forthcoming essay in Seton Hall Law Review.”
“The left-brain approach emphasizes ‘reasoning through precedent.’ Students are taught the facts of a case; the strengths and holes in the arguments; how and why a court ruled a certain way; how it was different from what came before.”
“That kind of training often misses the bigger picture of things—a conceptual, contextual and empathetic understanding that gives the other side of the brain a workout, says Ms. Franzese.”
And you can read Professor Franzese’s paper, “Law Teaching for the Conceptual Age,” here.
I promise you that I have stretched my synapses thinking about this one, I really have. And I’m still not sure I get it.
My memories of law school are potholed with a wide variety of amazing conversations about high-falutin’ concepts. Professor Franzese mentions Property and suggests how the focus on black-letter law could be improved and really move into Concepts. But it took me a few months of sitting and stewing in Real Property before our professor related anything remotely, um, real. Our Civil Procedure provided us windows into fascinating realms of expectation, rights, notice; all great, and all only peripherally connected to law practice. Concepts with a capital C, all.
You should understand that I appreciated (most of) those conversations (until I realized that all exams, including the Bar Exam, would be on black-letter law, and that it was up to the students to learn that law on their own; thanks, Teach).
So I think law school kept quite a bit of my brain exercised. How about you?
Meantime, here is yet another take on that good old Socratic dialogue. This post examines the question of whether it disadvantages women law students. And why would that be? Because male students are so damned enamored of their own voices and certain of their analyses that classrooms reverberate with their grand male thoughts. Or something.
I recall many hours of law school class that were highjacked by the drone of students who decided to use others’ tuition-paid time to channel their inner Professor Kingsfield. And the actual professor, sensing a kindred spirit, reveled in the repartee. Because I still suffer from law school PTSD, though, I cannot recall how many of those students—if any—were women.
Not everyone agrees with the notion that the Socratic dialogue unfairly affects women more. Here is Above the Law on the topic.Follow @azatty