The case method of instruction has served to instruct generations of students from the time of its introduction by Christopher Langdell at the Harvard Law School. It has much to recommend it inasmuch as the lawyers who have been trained to think, analyze and solve problems by analyzing cases include some of the best minds in the country. However, this time-honored method of instruction contains some major flaws and it is time that we reexamine a pedagogic approach satirized for its punishing role in The Paper Chase. A pedagogic approach to law training that focuses on problem solving is not a new idea. Some authors in fact have incorporated unsolved problems in their casebooks. However, given the ready communication that is encouraged and exists among students concerning the content of their classes, it behooves the professor to compose his or her own set of unsolved problems anew for each class. It is not fair to give an exam that was taken by a prior class to a new class with access to it; it is not helpful to give a problem that was solved by a prior class to a new class with access to it. Perhaps it is this extra work and not the time-honored tradition of the case method of study that is the greatest obstacle to improving our teaching methods.
Problems with the Structure of Casebooks and Instruction,
40 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol40/iss3/18