Special Section: Curriculum Version 2.0
With a new blueprint for legal education, Harvard Law School is breaking new ground
Harvard Law School, bursting at the seams, needs a new building. With widespread support and major gifts from key backers, the school raises more money than ever before, and anticipates an expansion into an exciting space. What’s more, the faculty has just made major changes to the curriculum.
The year? 1882. The dean at the time: Christopher Columbus Langdell. The new building: Austin Hall—a spacious improvement over the cramped quarters of Dane Hall, the school’s first home. All that’s past is prologue.
Langdell famously launched his new curriculum in the 1870-71 academic year, requiring first-year students to study property, contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, evidence and, for the first time as a separate course, torts. “We are inclined to think that Torts is not a proper subject,” sniffed the influential American Law Review, but by 1882 the new curriculum had already become the blueprint for American legal education.
Today, in an era when law is generated as much by statutes and regulations as by judicial opinions, and when globalization and the next version of the World Wide Web will foster more collaboration across borders, a second generation of the Langdell curriculum is warranted, with new offerings and focused programs of study for students in all three years of law school.
And so, along with the blueprints for the new Northwest Corner project (which is already under construction), there is a new blueprint for the building blocks of a legal education at Harvard Law School. But this isn’t a case of déjà vu all over again. Here is a first glimpse.
Illustrations by Adam McCauley