Dalhousie Law Journal


Moffatt Hancock


Crowning glory, inextinguishable fire, droll, colloquial, tongue-in-cheek remarks


"It is the crowning glory of this law school that it has kindled in many hearts an inextinguishable fire." Mr. Justice Holmes' Willis Reese's droll, colloquial, and slightly tongue-in-cheek remarks about what makes a law school "great" recall the success achieved by the law teachers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in establishing what came to be the exclusive system of legal education in the United States and building up those famous law schools that are its oldest exemplars. As late as 1890 the vast majority of law students were trained by a haphazard combination of clerking in lawyers' offices and private study. A much smaller number attended a type of law school that offered a course of lectures (usually for two years) followed by simplistic examinations or none at all. Graduation from high school was the normal entrance requirement. In the 1870's and 80's, against a barrage of hostile criticism, the Harvard Law School introduced what President Elliott called "the catechetical method" of class instruction requiring diligent analysis of cases by the student before the class. Examinations were not easy and three years of study were required for the LL.B. degree. Entrance requirements were gradually raised until only college graduates were admitted.