Tag Archives: Emotions

A Proposal for the use of Psychodrama in Law School

27 Mar

Kingsfield lectures in "The Paper Chase"

The Christmas before I came to law school my parents gave me a DVD of The Paper Chase.  It’s a common gift for future law students even though it’s dated and lacks the acting prowess of Reese Witherspoon. The movie follows Hart during his first year at Harvard Law School, focusing on the adversarial relationship between Hart and his intimidating contracts professor, Charles Kingsfield.  In one memorable scene, Kingsfield calls on Hart to explain the case of Hawkins v. McGee–the case of the “Hairy Hand.” Though unprepared for class, Hart manages to fumble through the legal reasoning and arrive at the correct legal application. He emerges distraught but victorious.

Law School has become somewhat kinder since the era of Professor Kingsley, but the teaching method remains largely the same. The casebook and Socratic method endure.  Professors ask students how the law should be applied in a case then expose the logical flaws in students’ arguments.  The goal of this method is to teach students how to interpret theories, statutes and precedents correctly while also honing their legal reasoning skills.  Those students who best navigate the delicious ambiguity and grey areas of the law are rewarded with high grades and a spot on the law review.  The greatest of the legal reasoners take their skills to the Moot Court competition.  The winner there is whoever best argues that the law favors their client regardless of whether it actually does.

The law school pedagogy creates a culture that values the type of work law students pursue rather than the merits of their cases.  The legal community grants prestige to lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court but cares little about which side they represent.  I believe these values derive from a legal education that discourages sentimentality and feeling. The renowned trial lawyer Gerry Spence found similar fault in his own legal education.

“What we really experienced in law school was a lobotomy of sorts, one that anesthetizes the law student against his emotions and attempts to reduce law to some sort of science.” – Gerry Spence (Win Your Case p. 77) Continue reading

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: