Civil Procedure Parables in the First Year: Applying the Bible to Think Like a Lawyer

Alfred R. Light, Civil Procedure Parables in the First Year: Applying the Bible to Think Like a Lawyer, 37  Gonz. L. Rev. 283 (2002).

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Law students learn the critical reasoning skills necessary to “think like a lawyer” in their first year classes. However, the legal profession is becoming increasingly concerned about a diminished sense of civility among those entering its ranks. Uncivil discovery practices prompted federal rulemaking experiments which ultimately caused Rule 11 to “legislate” presumptively civil behavior through mandatory initial disclosures and requirements to supplement pleadings. In addition, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) responded by amending its Model Code of Professional Responsibility and is still considering further revisions. The ABA’s release of the MacCrate Report, which instructed law schools to integrate professionalism throughout the curriculum and to bridge the gap between law school and law practice, illustrates how reform has impacted legal academia.

There is widespread dissatisfaction within academia about the role of professional responsibility in the law school curriculum. Law schools can increase the role of professional responsibility by infusing it into the main substantive courses of the first year. Civil Procedure classes are primary candidates because they are already considered the most difficult in the typical first-year law school curriculum. In several respects, Civil Procedure introduces the nascent law student to the lawyer’s foreign language in contexts which most students have little experience. For Civil Procedure issues, court policy focuses on either judicial economy or procedural fairness, which seems foreign when compared with the rights and wrongs of criminal law or torts or the sense of the “deal” in contracts. From a professional responsibility point of view, Civil Procedure may also be the most important of the substantive first year courses because it uniquely centers on the attorneys (and occasionally judges). Thus, students learn influential lessons about permissible or desirable conduct in this course because these messages are the first they receive in “professional school.” . . . Read More

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