Under the Sun: Casebooks and the Future of Contracts Teaching

Thomas W. Joo

Volume 66, Issue 4, 899-914

What is the future of the casebook in legal education? It is tempting and fashionable to blame the current woes of law schools on their supposedly “outdated” educational practices, such as casebooks. As this Article shows, however, most of the current criticisms of casebooks and the case method are perennial ones. This does not render the critiques invalid, but it does undermine the notion that they reveal a contemporary crisis in legal education. Indeed, they are not even specific to legal education. Rather, they reflect fundamental tensions in the learning of any field: theory versus practice, general understanding versus specific technical knowledge. By saying that there is nothing truly new in these criticisms, I do not mean to say that proposals for reform are futile or ill-advised. It is simply that there is nothing new under the sun, in legal education or anywhere else. Legal education has gone back and forth on these matters, and will continue to do so, and that is probably as it should be.

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