Nussbaum Argues Against Calls for Two-Year Law Degrees
When William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago, proposed to add a law school to the new university in 1902, he entrusted the project to Ernst Freund, a political-science professor, former practicing lawyer and well-known expert on police power and the free-speech rights of dissidents.
Freund argued that law students shouldn’t simply learn practical strategies (as in the old days when law was taught by apprenticeship) and the technical rules known as “black letter law.” Rather, they should have an education that also included economics, sociology, political theory and philosophy.
When Harper asked whether this curriculum wasn’t better suited to a “research department of jurisprudence” rather than to the worldly practitioner, Freund said absolutely not. Practitioners will go out into a society where all is not well, and they had better be equipped to think broadly, critically and independently about it. Otherwise, they would simply be tools in the hands of powerful interests, Freund said.
His vision of legal education gradually won out. Once Chicago was an outlier; now it is just one example of the dominant idea of legal education. Today, in addition to basic law subjects and a variety of practice-oriented courses, law students learn to see society throug