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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Are previously "under-taught" course now more taught in law school?

For my sign-off post to finish a month of sporadic guest-blogging, I thought I might return to a topic that I covered in a prior guest stint in this post, titled "What course is most "under-taught" in law school?".  That post generated lots of interesting suggestions, including:

  • Sentencing Law (my suggestion)
  • Disability Law
  • Information Privacy Law
  • Enforcement proceedings
  • Remedies
  • Insurance Law
  • Conflicts / Choice of Law
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • White-Collar Crime
  • Legal History
  • and all sort of transactional law

I seriously doubt that, three years later, many (or any) of these course are more taught now than they were three years ago when I asked this question initially.  That said, there has been lots of talk in recent years about law school teaching reform (as highlighted at Law School Innovation and elsewhere), but most of this talk has been about teaching methods rather than teaching substance.

Whether you like or dislike recent trends in law school teaching, I would love to hear another round or reactions to the question I put out way-back-when: What legal topic do you think should develop into an upper-level elective offered at most or all law schools in the coming years?

Posted by Douglas A. Berman on July 31, 2008 at 06:01 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Fiduciary Law and the duty of good faith and fair dealing was a very hot topic for a while in litigation. Seems worth a class.

I'll note that I took administrative law in law school -- it was on the state bar exam as a topic -- I'm wondering how many of these classes are found at some law schools and not others.

Posted by: Stephen M (Ethesis) | Aug 3, 2008 10:06:07 PM

In response to an earlier request by Thomas Gallanis, Fiduciary Law. I have taught a seminar on the topic for more than a decade now and have published a treatise on the subject:

see http://www.carswell.com/description.asp?DocID=3917&pgid=description

Other than offerings at Yale and BYU, I have not seen or heard of other fiduciary law courses. If anyone knows of any others, I would appreciate a heads-up.

Posted by: Len Rotman | Aug 2, 2008 11:34:54 PM

I definitely concur with Justin that state constitutional law should be a more widely offered upper-level class. So much constitutional litigation has been occurring on the state level in recent years and there isn't an adequate forum for students to learn in a comprehensive manner about the developments.

Posted by: Bernie Meyler | Aug 2, 2008 8:56:25 AM

State constitutional law. Same-sex marriage, school financing, gun rights (beyond Heller), environmental protection, elected judiciaries, routine citation of "foreign" law in high-court opinions, plural executives, free speech rights on private property -- who wouldn't like to understand these hot issues a bit better? Not to mention federalism - can a student's understanding be complete without ever having studied the state half of the equation?

Posted by: Justin | Aug 1, 2008 4:49:50 PM

I agree with a lot of what's been said.

First, general practice courses like Remedies and Conflict of Laws are vital. I'd like to see a revival of Equity as a stand-alone course, myself.

Second, although I agree with Joseph that Public Sector Labor Law is important, I'm not sure I agree with his contention that the governing law is substantially different. The primary differences boil down to 1) do the workers have the right to collectively bargain; 2) do the workers have the right to strike; and 3) can any CBA involve union security? Those are vital questions, but relatively simple ones. A course in Labor/Management Negotiations would want to emphasize those differences, but Labor Law itself isn't significantly affected by them.

Third, and finally, law school just sort of generically sucks in preparing students for actual, you know, practice. More drafting classes, whether litigation, legislation, or transactions.

Posted by: Matthew Krell | Aug 1, 2008 11:41:59 AM

Public Sector Labor Law. Forty percent of all union members in the U.S. are now government employees; government employment has a union density rate of almost 40%; and the state and local labor laws that govern the private sector are often quite different than the federal statute governing the private sector (the NLRA) that is taught in the traditional labor law class.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Aug 1, 2008 11:18:36 AM

Animal Law, Health Law, and Comparative Law. More Labor Law and Native American Indian Law.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Aug 1, 2008 11:04:23 AM

Animal Law. Although some schools are starting to offer the course, more than half of all ABA accredited law schools don't offer it.

Posted by: Luis Chiesa | Aug 1, 2008 10:23:31 AM

Consumer Law !
[I teach it]

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Aug 1, 2008 9:50:10 AM

I'd like to see more enrollment in electives valuable for multiple areas of practice: for example, Remedies and Conflict of Laws. In addition, given my fields of expertise, I'd welcome the creation of a course in Fiduciary Law.

Posted by: Thomas P. Gallanis | Aug 1, 2008 9:09:29 AM

"Sheriff John Green has spent 37 years in law enforcement. But these days he's best known around town for the law he won't enforce.
With the economy soft and thousands of Philadelphians delinquent on their mortgages, Sheriff Green this spring refused to hold a court-ordered foreclosure auction."

In light of this story, I stick with my previous proposition, enforcement proceedings. What good is getting a judgement against your debtor if you can't get it enforced?
And, on the debtor's side, how can I stop a sherrif taking away my car that I need to get to work? Or, with respect to corporations, how do I stop the sherrif from seizing the assets I need for continuing my business?

Posted by: Positroll | Aug 1, 2008 6:28:08 AM

Information Privacy Law

Posted by: Daniel J. Solove | Jul 31, 2008 11:00:45 PM

"Drafting ___________". What struck me the most about law school was the serious lack of writing. I have a JD in law and I have never drafted a will or trust, a contract, a constitution, a complaint, or any other legal document except one closed memo and one open memo. More writing please.

Posted by: George | Jul 31, 2008 7:35:29 PM

Remedies. It was my worst grade in law school, yet I used it in private practice more than any other elective course. Every lawyer needs to understand what happens when things go wrong.

Transactions. Luckily I had an elective in Business Planning that helped with the analytical phase, but drafting, due diligence, and execution were self-taught.

Administrative Procedures. Rulemaking, contested matters, petitions to boards and agencies, and appeals at every level from federal to local. A growth industry irrespective of the party in power.

Posted by: Ted McClure | Jul 31, 2008 7:04:45 PM

Computer Crime Law, of course.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 31, 2008 6:36:43 PM

Habeas Corpus. Even though it is a niche area that only a relatively few students will ever deal with, it is essential as a stand-alone course for those who do go into the criminal defense side. There is too much there to meaningfully cover in Fed Courts, Civil Rights, or Criminal Procedure.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jul 31, 2008 6:27:34 PM

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