Landis Urges Varied Approach to Law Rather Than Single Teaching Method

Believes Aptitude Tests Have No Value for Harvard Yet; May Use Seminars

"There is no such thing as a single Harvard Law system. We have a multitude of systems. We are not Bealian or Willistonian or Frankfurtian; we have no one brand of thought here. Our faculty disputes with each other in class and out. This fighting back and forth prevents the development of a straight-jacket method of teaching. You meet all sorts of philosophies, techniques, and approaches to law at Harvard and it is more desirable to have this variety of outlook than a definite school of thought."

In these words Dean James M. Landis gave voice to the spirit of legal education at the Harvard Law School.

Criticizes Teaching Fads

Dean Landis was outspoken in his criticism of methods of teaching which were ruled by a series of changing fashions. "It too often has been true that a new and worthwhile method of legal analysis, such as that of Hohfeld, has become a final gospel for others, and that those outlanders who insist upon their independence have been regarded for the time being as passe."

Turning to a discussion of changes which have just been made in the Harvard curriculum, he said that more seminars are being introduced in the third year which will bring more students in contact with the faculty. This contact, he felt, is needed more by the students lower down the scale than by the top men who "teach themselves."


Dean Landis revealed that the Law School hopes also to experiment with joint seminars using college professors in addition to the regular law faculty. Labor law is considered such a field--where one can profit from having a seminar conducted jointly by a law professor and a labor economist. But the Dean stressed that such seminars must rest on a background of legal knowledge. In this connection he thought that some of the material which is introduced in other law schools in the first year should come later. Constitutional law, for example, is given at some schools in the first term. "Before you take such a course, you need a good legal background or the course tends merely to be a political science course rather than one that includes training in legal method."

Small Class Not Essential

When asked whether a small class was particularly adaptable to the case system, as other schools with smaller classes than Harvard claim, Landis said that you could not generalize about this. "A large class does make people think before they speak," he said. "The resentment of the class against trivialities helps to keep discussion relevant. The problem is one of getting morale and evoking a variety of ideas."

The Dean added that in determining the best size for any class the abilities of the teacher must be considered. Some men can teach large classes better than seminars. He thought, however, that there was a maximum beyond which no size could be justified.

"Harvard has been unable to utilize the results of the legal and other aptitude tests given by other schools." The difficulty arises from the fact that other schools have considered college records, aptitude and personality all together, and thus failed to isolate the results of the aptitude tests. "Personality," remarked Mr. Landis, "tends to be more guesswork." He said it might mean social background or almost anything that the interviewer wanted to take into consideration.

Will Test Correlation

Although not yet requiring aptitude tests for admission, Harvard gives voluntary tests to its first year men. After additional experience, the school plans to test the correlation between aptitude and later results. The result of trying to forecast law school results on the basis of college records tabulated for over ten years seems to be that "a poor performance in college is an indication of a lessened chance of success in law school." Yet one cannot interpret the data to mean that a person who gets A's in college will necessarily do well in law school. The figures can only be used as an indication of lessened chances of success rather than as guarantees of it."

As a guide for determining admissions Harvard has set a variety of standards which the student must attain--the particular standard depending in any one case upon the college from which the candidate applies. Thus there is one college from which almost any graduate, no matter the mark, will be accepted. In other colleges almost an A plus average is required. Dean Landis declined to permit the CRIMSON to have access to these standards.

While on the general subject of admissions, Dean Landis expressed great worry about the trend to requirements for pre-legal education. "There is hardly a subject that has no relation to law," he said. "Lawyers should acquaint themselves with other aspects of our civilization--art, literature, and music. The chief present need is for men with broad vision who will keep the law functioning adequately." At the same time Mr. Landis expressed his disgust for the American passion for formalistic training--the "peculiar belief" that you've to take a course in a subject to learn anything.

"Another great need is to get men with good broad legal training out into the country." Landis compared the need for supplying all classes and interests in our society with well trained lawyers to the need for hospitals to spread new medical services to grow up where adequate services are now lacking. He was proud that Harvard law graduates are serving all economic interests.

Stressing the great field of adventure which the law offers, Landis said, "Law has more ways of living than any other profession. No one going into law can prophesy the things he's eventually going to mess around with.