By Joshua Gutzmann. Full Text.
For most of us (the Editors of Volume 107 of the Minnesota Law Review), the summer before starting law school was characterized by a global pandemic and a racial reckoning. Like many Americans, we experienced a toxic mix of feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and even anger; and we yearned for the requisite skills and credentials to fight the injustices and inequities all around us. Our 1L year was a roller coaster ride: we experienced the ordinary challenges of the 1L curriculum through our Zoom screens while simultaneously watching a meme-fueled retail investor uprising, an attempted overthrow of a presidential election and attack on our nation’s capitol, the trial of George Floyd’s murderer, and the breakdown of all trust in government on our phones and televisions.
So why, after all these events and out of all the possible topics, did we vote to make legal education the focus of our Symposium? We chose it because we recognize the importance and urgency of legal education reform. We can see how central the education we are receiving is to our ability to respond to these issues—and how central lawyers are to any hope for change. Though we appreciate our dedicated professors and our excellent law school, we recognize that the structure of American legal education is merely preparing us to—as Professor Bennett Capers puts it—make change only on the margins. We recognize that if our system of government and laws is ever going to properly and equitably serve the people it’s supposed to, we need lawyers who are prepared to completely reimagine the system.
And to do that, we need to reimagine legal education. It has been more than 150 years since Christopher Columbus Langdell first brought the case method to the law school classroom, and—though a few changes have been made on the margins, like the addition of skills courses and clinics—the basic foundation of law school remains the same. We need true structural change to break free from the old way of thinking. As Capers argues, we need to see law schools “no longer as a white space (in terms of demographics, or what is taught, or how it is taught), but as a white space (as in a blank page, at once empty and full of possibilities).”
From this vantage, we designed a symposium that would question and re-envision the core pillars of legal education.