THE HIGH CITADEL: On the Influence of Harvard Law School by Joel with Lynne Bernabei Seligman

THE HIGH CITADEL: On the Influence of Harvard Law School

Email this review


An overblown title and subtitle for what is essentially an intramural attack--and a perfectly sound one--on the curricula, admission policies, teaching methods, and underlying philosophy of Harvard Law School. Ralph Nader disciple Seligman first traces the history of Harvard's conservative, ivory-towerish, case-oriented, pure-reasoning-oriented style--spawned by the 19th century's C. C. Langdell and reinforced by the 20th century's Erwin Griswold, who left the ""nation's most prestigious trade school"" behind him when he retired in the mid-Sixties. Then Seligman takes on the current status quo in admissions (""a meritocracy of the few""), faculty (too many corporate types and Harvard grads, too few former D.A.'s), curricula (not enough clinical training, not enough broad intellectual and socio-economic enlightenment), grading, placement, etc. All well and good--if not particularly surprising. But what about that subtitular ""influence""? Well, ""it is the extent to which other law schools continue to emulate Harvard that constitutes the School's most significant influence."" Seligman admits, however, that ""the ameliorative efforts of any single school. . . in the long run are unlikely to be significant."" Moreover, his basic drift--that changing the nature of law schools would alter the unfair nature of legal representation--seems a naive and backwards approach to the inequities of a capitalist system. Certainly he overestimates the ""extraordinary capacity to influence law students' career decisions that law schools and their faculties possess."" (Does he really believe that Harvard graduates go after big-money corporate jobs largely because they've ""listened to their professors recount experiences at leading firms. . .""?) To make a convincing case that law schools don't (or shouldn't) simply provide the kind of lawyers that society is asking for, Seligman would have to study more than just one law school and would have to chart that law school ""influence"" with far more conviction than he does here.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin