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The Law School, the Profession, and Arthurs' “Humane Professionalism”, 44 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 157 (2006)


Julian Webb has done us all a service with his sympathetic reconstruction of Harry Arthurs' celebrated 1983 report on legal education, Law and Leaming/Le droit et Ie savoir. Read again today, the report has all the character of its principal author: it is humane, generous, and rational; ambitious in aim though modest in tone; and acerbically direct in its diagnosis of what is wrong with legal education and what needs to be put right. It took aim at what was then the almost exclusive, and remains the dominant, occupation of the law schools, teaching doctrinal black-letter law. Indeed one of its principal and most subversive critiques is that the black-letter curriculum is not very "practical," except in the sense it that provides some intellectual discipline; that only in clinics do students confront problems as a whole, as lawyers would confront them; and that if schools were serious about preparing students for practice, they would do it very differently. One can readily see why many law teachers responded to the report with what Constance Backhouse recalls as "overwhelming ... negativity," calling it "idiocy" and "poppycock."

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