July 13, 2010

"Why I gave up on Socrates and why I think teaching students to think like lawyers, as Kingsfield claimed to do, is a bad idea."

Professor Bainbridge lectures about lecturing.

24 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Better to get law students to think like a sommelier, chef, dog lover, and aficionado of fine cigars and all that is good in life.

ricpic said...

As a proud modern he lacks Socrates' patience.

Dead Julius said...

I feel generally hesitant about clicking on any Bainbridge link (I associate Bainbridge with "annoying"), but I did, since Althouse found it worthy. Then I found that to get to what he's actually saying, you have to click on the embedded YouTube video, which is nearly 10 minutes long and seems to be Bainbridge giving an awards talk (the hubris!). I gave it 90 content-less seconds, only to notice that the audio is horrible and there's a long typically-academic intro with the obligatory cutesy-professor story.

All in all, that is a case study in how NOT to write a blog post.

Ann Althouse said...

"Socrates' patience"

Was Socrates patient?

Ann Althouse said...

@ Dead Julius LOL

I always feel guilty when I resort to lecturing. It's great fun, but it seems wrong to have so much fun. Indulgent.

Ann Althouse said...

I do really agree with what B says about "soft" Socratic method.

Patrick said...

From my own experience, it is not necessarily the true "Socratic" method that is important in law school. Rather, it is crucial to have a professor who has high standards, requires preparation, and requires students to think on their feet. This is especially important in the first year, when students have no real idea how to read a case and determine its holding, and how that holding could apply in other cases.
WV: "rebra." To put it back on when she says "stop?"

Donna B. said...

The audio is truly horrible, but the link to the text version of the speech is only 9 pages long - a quick read.

The really interesting part was at the end about teaching pride in being a corporate lawyer.

HDHouse said...

Of course that would go with the prerequisite assumption that the "best people" want to be lawyers to start with.

If the req. is teaching the 7 liberal arts to what otherwise appears to be a clueless and uninteresting group of Stepford types, then I'm all in. Otherwise. Pass.

rhhardin said...

The patience of Socrates.

traditionalguy said...

Lectures are a better way to teach the many rules that need to be learned in special areas of the law. Case holdings are mind focusing tools that keep everyone in the game mentally and lead into good lectures...and the Kingsfield method is the challenge, that lawyers must know from experiencing it, that is closest to courtroom combat. All three are helpfull to the end of producing sharp Lawyers.

William said...

The Socratic method works best when you have someone like Socrates instructing someone like Plato. When someone like Socrates instructs someone like Lindsay, the discussion soon devolves into a discussion of whether open toed sandals are appropriate for men with gnarly toes. Like an equilateral triangle, the Socratic method is an ideal form that does not occur among the organic shapes of nature.

ricpic said...

The patience of Socrates consisted in asking questions of his students in the full knowledge that the answers he would receive would be only approximations of the truth, that both the students and Socrates himself would then proceed to haltingly gropingly approach by asking more questions, Socrates of the students and the students of Socrates. The modern proffessoriate has neither the patience nor humility to employ the Socratic method.

EDH said...

Still doesn't mean Bainbridge isn't a "son of a bitch!"

Nor that he wouldn't think that was the most intelligent thing said all day.

wv - "auted" = when the IRS discovers your "wife" for tax purposes is really a man.

David said...

Well, I decided not to listen to this lecture either.

Stan said...

I think good lawyers "think like a lawyer" before they ever darken the door of a law school. Poor lawyers never seem to get it.

As a result, a lot of Socratic questioning in first year classes is really nothing more than silly games of 'hide-the-ball' where the professor delights in taking advantage of ignorance. Most law students eventually figure out that they usually understood the material reasonably well after reading it and the professor's games in class the next day were merely a distraction from learning what they needed for the exam.

reader_iam said...

I'd sooner associate the word "ruthless" with Socrates than the word "patient."

Eric said...

Socratic thinking has no place in the courtroom. Your right I think being a good lawyer has to do with having the right frame of mind. But, having the knowledge to know exactly what to do comes with experience.

Claremont Bankruptcy Lawyer

reader_iam said...

Hey, I'm seriously curious about the answer to the following:

Would you hire a lawyer based on his linking to his practice in the comments section of a blog? Or, to be more precise, would you be more or less likely to interview him to possibly represent you based on that?

And is it wrong to wonder whether the motivation behind the comment is more interest in the topic or more a marketing tool?

Dead Julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dead Julius said...

@reader_iam:

...linking to his practice in the comments section of a blog...

The link is nofollow'd automatically by Blogger. "Eric" probably thinks, naively, that the linked site gets some search engine benefit from the link being posted here; in fact, the nofollow attribute instructs all search engines to ignore the link completely.

Posting the link here does, however, make the practice look unprofessional IMHO, especially since Althouse (the blog) is somewhat related to the law profession and therefore some legal peers are probably reading it.

buster said...

I had only one professor who was good at the Socratic method, but he was truly extraordinary. He would pose some hypothetical set of facts and ask you to apply whatever rule or concept was being discussed. You answer his question. He then changes one fact in the hypothetical, and that change makes nonsense of your answer. He asks you to apply the rule or concept to the new hypothetical and you do. He changes another fact and your second answer is nonsense. You apply the rule or concept to the third hypo and he changes a fact and your answer is nonsense. He could keep this up forever, it seemed. The result was that you learned how the rule really worked, what the concept really meant, and how to do casuistic reasoning (argument by cases) which is what "thinking like a lawyer" really is.

It's best to stay anonymous when participating in these threads, but this professor died a few years ago and he deserves to be remembered. So I'll identify him even though it reveals a fact about me. Joseph Goldstein of the Yale Law School. He was a great teacher, a subtle and penetrating thinker, and a good, compassionate man.

Alex said...

Thank you Althouse for reminding me again why I hate lawyers and pray to God I never find myself in a courtroom at the mercy of these soulless ghouls.

Eric said...

The Greeks gave up on Socrates, too. Anybody who was forced to drink poison by his neighbors should be viewed with suspicion.