The Several Futures of the Law School Casebook: Of Changing Legal Education, Universities, & Hierarchies

I wrote a series of posts about law school casebooks and what close readings of their origins and uses can tell us about things that can and cannot be changed about legal education, higher education, and more.

Here are the links, all in one place:

Closing the Book


In this final installment of my occasional series on the past, present, and future of the law school casebook [first post here] [second post here] [third post here] [fourth post here], I’ll return to some crumbs that I left on the trail earlier, then take some swings at connecting them into some bigger payoffs. 

A 360-degree tour of the casebook, as one of the most durable tools in higher education (really!), yields some possibly interesting ideas about the future of legal education generally – and maybe even higher education.

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Bye the Book


This occasional series about the law school casebook, for decades the fundamental teaching unit of American law students and many law students elsewhere, makes the case that micro changes in pedagogical expectations – what we teach with, rather than what we teach – have the potential to open pathways to macro changes in institutional culture both in schools and in the broader profession. 

Earlier posts have outlined the broad claim, explored the motivations and incentives that drive the persistence of the casebook model, and even defended the uses of casebooks from the point of view of both students and professors.  [First post here] [Second post here] [Third post here]

In this post, I want to turn the screws a little bit.  The clearest and most direct argument in opposition to the current casebook model is economic, pure and simple.  Casebooks cost students a lot of money, money that they often don’t have, money that they shouldn’t have to spend on teaching materials in law, and money that they might better spend on other things.

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The Strangelovian Law School, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Casebook

In this series of posts about the law school casebook [first post here] [second post here], I’ve suggested that the casebook is both emblem and instrument of how the legal profession perpetuates itself as a field. 

The obvious subtext is that I believe (along with others) that the profession is overdue for some substantial re-thinking and re-implementing, and that change begins at home. [Since this series began, the chorus of similar calls has gotten louder and louder.  See, for example, this post from Dan Rodriguez, “Toward evidence-based legal education reform: First, let’s experiment,” and this announcement of an interesting new venture at the University of Pennsylvania.] Lots of time, attention, and money are flowing into re-regulation of law practice, legaltech solutions, and other things.  Some good time and attention is being directed to modifying the edges of legal education, particularly via new forms of experiential education.  Almost no time or money is going into re-thinking the intellectual backbone of law’s entire system of systems.  That’s my interest in the casebook.

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