Thursday, October 26, 2006

Curriculum Reform and the Myth of the Horizontal Organization

Rather repeat a previous and, I think, relevant post from Legal Profession Blog over here on the "revised curriculum" debate, I'll do a quick synopsis, and provide a link.

It's interesting to me that I've not seen any linking up of the Harvard Law School curriculum reform agenda with the broader Harvard general education curricular reform package, which was announced several days ahead of the law school's initiative. (To be fair, Jim's post below touches on the relationship between a general liberal education and a legal education.) I blogged about the latter issue in connection with a blogosphere debate in which the folks at Empirical Legal Studies and Larry Solum, among others, chimed in.

Over gumbo and crawfish etouffee, Jim and I talked about this subject several weeks ago, and it struck me again as I looked at the last couple posts on a three-year curricular plan. Tevye, in advising his daughter about the problems of inter-marriage, says "a fish could marry a bird, but where would they live?" The myth of horizontal organization is that you can keep a business organization dynamic and growing merely by agglomerating value-creating specialties. But if that's the case, it's like fish and birds, and who sees the places where neither of them live? Either everybody is responsible for the gaps between specialties (which means nobody is responsible) or nobody is responsible. So in Jim's proposed curriculum, when the students reach the third year, which specialists in the legal academy are going to teach the "capstone" course, whether business-oriented or otherwise?

I'm not prepared to consign the third year of law student to adjuncts and professors of the practice (unless I'm one of them, in which case, ignore everything I've said). I still think this is what Larry Solum was getting at in his discussion of cross-disciplinary skills and tools. A legal academy without deep specialization diminishes its claim to scholarly bona fides; one without that gap-filling threatens to become, as Jim and others have said, an odd way station on the way to the bar exam and to practice. Is it Chicago that asks faculty to teach a subject wholly outside the professor's field on a regular basis? I take Jim's proposal to teach tax in that spirit of gap-filling.


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