Mission of the Law School

Educational Mission of The Law School

Chicago aims to train well-rounded, critical, and socially conscious thinkers and doers. The cornerstones that provide the foundation for Chicago's educational mission are the life of the mind, participatory learning, interdisciplinary inquiry, and an education for generalists.

What sets Chicago apart from other law schools is its unabashed enthusiasm for the life of the mind--the conviction that ideas matter, that they are worth discussing, and that legal education should devote itself to learning for learning's sake.

Learning the law at Chicago therefore is a passionate--even intense--venture between and among faculty and students. It begins in the classroom where students share the stage with the professor. The professor does not lecture, but instead engages the group in a dialogue. Known as the Socratic Method, this dialogue presents students with questions about thorny legal concepts and principles. Energized by this dialogue within the classroom, students seek opportunities outside the classroom for further conversation and learning in one of Chicago's clinical programs, with one of Chicago's three student-edited journals, or in one of Chicago's many extracurricular offerings (there are more than forty student organizations at the Law School), and in numerous lunchtime events involving speakers or panels.

Honoring Chicago's history and commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry, faculty draw students' attention to insights from the social sciences, the humanities, and the natural sciences beginning on the first day of class. Chicago's unique first year required course, "Elements of the Law," introduces students to the law as an interdisciplinary field and gives students the tools to continue the interdisciplinary inquiry throughout their legal education.

Chicago remains committed to legal education as an education for generalists, although students with particular interests will find it possible to study topics in depth through advanced and more specialized courses. Emphasizing the acquisition of broad and basic knowledge of law, an understanding of the functioning of the legal system, and the development of analytic abilities of the highest order, a Chicago legal education prepares students for any professional role they might choose--legal practice or legal education, entrepreneurial ventures, international private or public law practice, corporate practice, government service, alternative dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation, or work with non-profit organizations. Graduates do many things in their careers, and they all take with them the analytic skills emphasized during their years at the Law School.

Scholarly and Research Mission of the Law School

Since its founding in 1902, a major component of the University of Chicago Law School's mission has been to develop and disseminate knowledge through scholarly research that critically analyzes the development of the law and related disciplines. The Law School's research mission is broad, encompassing the range of thought from the empirical to the theoretical; from pure legal topics to far-reaching interdisciplinary inquiry; from local, state, and federal law of the United States to international and comparative law. The faculty members are concerned with the interaction between law and society in a myriad of ways, and draw on economics, philosophy, cultural studies, public policy, feminist and race theory, history, political science, business, and other disciplines.  Members of the Law School faculty engage in research and publication to develop their own knowledge and expertise as well as that of the Law School community as a whole. The faculty members bring their own work into their interaction with students, and their work with students back into their scholarship. Work done by the Law School faculty has changed both scholarly and popular understanding of the law, from Ronald Coase's Nobel Prize winning theorem and work on the nature of the firm to Richard Epstein's work on takings, from Kalven and Zeisel's groundbreaking work into understanding juries to Martha Nussbaum's iconic capabilities approach.