Case Method

There are two main methods of instruction used to teach law in law schools in America. These methods include case method and the Socratic method. Langdell introduced the case method of instruction in Harvard School. Professors base it on the principle of reading actual judicial opinions under the rule of stare decisis rather than studying highly abstract summaries of legal rules. They collect cases concerning a particular area of study such as contract law. They further edit the cases leaving the most important paragraphs and paraphrasing the rest. Lastly, they write brief notes summarizing other cases held by courts that involve the same ruling. They later assign the summarized cases to their students and tell them to be familiar with all the cases that he provided them. During class time, the professors randomly ask the students questions about the cases that they assigned them in an attempt of determining whether they understood the correct rule from the heavily contested cases. This method is different from other methods of instruction since it requires students to work exclusively with the original source of material given and it involves a dialogue about the meaning of a case. The Socratic method of instruction is a form of inquiry and debate that occurs between the students and the lecturers where each person has an opportunity of airing his opinion on a particular case. These random questions help to stimulate critical thinking in the student’s mind hence illuminating ideas. This method searches for generally accepted truths that mostly shape our opinion and scrutinizes them to see if they are in line with other accepted beliefs. The professor asks random questions in class to students who may have volunteered to answer or not. He asks the student about an argument put forth by a federal judge in a decided case. If the student had read the case well, he would not have any problem in paraphrasing the whole case. At times, the professor plays the role of the devil’s advocate by trying to oblige the student to defend his position. Most professors prefer this method since it allows more than one correct answer. It teaches the students critical thinking skills that would help them in their practice as lawyers. By the professor altering particular facts on a given case, he teases students to think on how the results of a case might have been different. Furthermore, it encourages the students to concentrate on the application of legal rules rather than memorizing facts of a given case.

I think Professor Rudolph Perini and Morris would accept the methods of instruction implemented by Langell. Rudolph Perini had an intimidating teaching style and he required his students to be adequately prepared before his lessons began. He argued that a lawyer would never say to a judge or a senior partner that he is unprepared. By using case method, he would be preparing the students to the real legal world. Cases help students to develop diagnostic skills in the legal world that is faced with changing rules of law. This would teach the students to think appropriately in new challenging situations. Nick Morris was as a young appealing man who stressed on the humanistic aspects of law. In addition to this, cases help the students to develop persuasive skills that would help them in their practice as lawyers. It is requirement for successful lawyers to tell compelling stories and design persuasive arguments so that they can win a case. Rudolph Perini would use this method to advise his students on how to improve the quality of their arguments on decided cases. It also teaches the students to make decisions when they face with critical challenges. The courage of making critical decisions will help the lawyer to make good decisions concerning the affairs of his client. I think Professor Rudolph Perini prepares his students better for legal profession since his strictness would teach them to be prepared lawyers who would represent the affairs of their clients more appropriately. Nick Morris was soft and this would not prepare his students adequately for the legal world that is tough.


In conclusion, it is evident that Langell contributed a lot by introducing case method of instruction in Harvard. Most law schools in America use this method of instruction together with Socratic method. Both Professor Rudolph Perini and Morris would accept this method of instruction in their lectures since they would prepare their students in mastering skills of the legal profession. By using case method, the critical thinking of the law students would improve. Professor Rudolph Perini does a better job in preparing his students.

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