Law School for Poets

17 Feb 2012 04:19pm Melissa Murray 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section  on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

Like many who attend law school, I was an undergraduate history major. The humanities, my college pre-professional advisor assured me, were ideal preparation for the rigors of law school. I believed the hype. Three years later, on my first day of Contracts, my blind faith in the inherent compatibility of the humanities and legal education was rewarded with a sinking feeling that would, in time, give way to nausea. I had been duped. I had envisioned exuberant discussions led by a pipe-smoking, tweed-jacketed professor about the great moments in the history of contract law. Instead, the class began with the professor (sans pipe and tweed jacket) scrawling the Coase Theorem on the chalkboard. There were numbers. I felt the bile rising in my throat.

Although I learned to deal with the numbers, I could not help feeling that something was missing from the experience. Where was the social and historical context that could illuminate these doctrines? As we marched methodically through the substance of each course, we never stopped to dwell on the connections that linked cases that were thematically distinct, but connected contextually and chronologically.

Though it would have been easy to submit to this standard law school pedagogy, I did not swallow my misgivings and fall in line. I did not go gently into that good night! I became a law professor, and I vowed to find a way to reach my fellow poets, artists, and historians.

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