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Article

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Simpson's Leading Cases, 95 Michigan Law Review 2044 (1997)

Abstract

The notion of collecting "leading cases," Professor A.W. Brian Simpson informs the reader of this engaging and profoundly subversive book, emerged in the nineteenth century as a handmaiden to the ideal of legal science. The cases gave a method of learning law not as a hodgepodge of precedents but as a coherent body of principles. A few cases provided exceptionally clear applications of the principles, and by concentrated study of these few the lawyer or law student could learn "how to tease out the principles from the cases, and how to apply them to the complex disputes which were presented to courts in litigation" (p. 5). Dean C.C. Langdell of Harvard put leading cases at the heart of his system of legal education. Although the ideal of legal science that the "case method" was supposed to inculcate has faded over the years, the method has spread to every law school in America, and with it the (remarkably durable) repertoire of famous cases that almost every student still encounters in the first year of law study.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1997

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