Contact and Concepts: Educating Students at Jesuit Law Schools

Andrew  F. Moore, Contact and Concepts: Educating Students at Jesuit Law Schools, 41 Gonz. L. Rev. 459 (2006).

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Are Jesuit law schools distinct from other law schools? Professor John Breen, in a recent critique of Jesuit legal education, concluded they are not. He contends they lack distinctive qualities that should be present given the history of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Catholic intellectual tradition. Professor Breen concludes that Jesuit identity, while mentioned in the webpages of the fourteen Jesuit law schools, is marginalized and basically expressed through the operation of clinics  which serve underrepresented populations. Since most law schools, both public and private, have such clinics, these Jesuit law schools cannot base their Jesuit identity in such a feature. What is missing, he asserts, is a commitment to teaching about justice throughout the curriculum. He proposes a model for bringing the study of justice into the heart of Jesuit legal education, with mandatory jurisprudence classes that emphasize the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition as an essential element.

This paper offers a response to Professor Breen, agreeing with his concerns but disagreeing with his proposed solution. This response is based upon my experiences as a former member of the Society of Jesus as well as my experiences teaching at a Jesuit law school and founding an immigration law clinic. Part II of this article will describe the identity, history, and mission of the Society of Jesus and Jesuit legal education. In Part III, I consider Professor Breen’s critique, which has strong merits, and his proposal. He raises a concern that should be addressed at Jesuit law schools: how is the Jesuit mission fulfilled through these schools? While Breen provocatively raises the issue, I conclude that his proposed solution to address the issue will be ineffective. Instead, in Part IV, I propose a model, the key features of which include the following: weaving justice issues into the existing curriculum; providing direct service to the underserved; and conducting a seminar that would give a structured opportunity to engage in social analysis and integrate religious, spiritual and vocational reflection. Last, the article will address and respond to the challenges in implementing this vision…. Read More

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