Relativism, a great institution, shell significance, interior characteristics, respectable facilities, faculty, scholarship, teaching
Of course I have no idea what makes a law school great. I have never really thought about it. There is no reason why a fellow in my lowly position should think about it. You can't arrive at my age and still be reasonably healthy if you do think about it. So I don't know. Dean Ronald Macdonald said "why don't you say something about what makes a law school great?" My reaction was to shudder. I did think about if for about ten minutes on Saturday and I have come up with the most obvious thoughts, all of which I know you've heard before. Clearly, you have to ask, "great from what point of view?" But I don't know if this lawyer's relativism solves anything. I suppose that if the ordinary janitor were walking down the street in search of a great institution, he would look at the building to see if it were just a huddle with outhouses, and things like that. If it were, I guess that he would have a low opinion of the place. I do think that the shell has some significance; and I think that the interior characteristics can be important; for example, how the building is arranged, whether there is carpeting on the floor, (which there certainly is not at Columbia); whether the halls, as at Yale and Columbia, are dark and remind you of a jail. Although these things are important, I am not suggesting that they are the most important factors. But I doubt that any law school without respectable facilities has been thought of as great. Well, what the hell else makes it great? I don't know, but I suppose that when you think of an order of importance, the building ranks lowest.
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Willis L.M. Reese, “What makes a law school great?”, Comment, (1980-1981) 6:2 DLJ 339.