New Alternative Teaching Methods Taking Hold at Law Schools

Anticipatory Breach

As their numbers continue to grow, law schools are increasingly looking for ways to separate themselves from the competition. And, given recent debate about the utility and effectiveness of the Socratic Method, some schools have experimented with teaching styles that may attract students looking for a different approach.

One notable change has been the introduction of the Rorschach-inspired “Legal Blot Method” founded by Prof. Hazeldorf at Franklin Parker Law Center. The Legal Blot Method utilizes collections of vague, random legal phrases on which students project their own ideas about what legal concepts mean. What a student thinks he or she understands about nebulous legal abstractions such as “anticipatory breach,” “detrimental reliance,” or “adverse possession” is thus necessarily a subjective, individualized conclusion. The Legal Blot Method has been criticized by traditional legal professors as being unclear about what legal concepts are actually being taught. Most law students who have undergone the instruction, however, have expressed approval that the Method precludes ever giving a wrong answer.

Another such innovation has been the “Free Association Method” recently developed by Prof. Gerlow at the Quartman College of Law. Like the Socratic Method, the Free Association Method relies heavily on professor-student interactions. Although some students complain that lesson plans under the Free Association Method tend to meander off-course, many students say they like being able to speak about whatever comes into their minds without having to censor their thoughts. These students say the instruction allows them to fully understand what is at the core of each law student participating in the lecture, regardless of how much he or she actually knows about the issue at hand or law in general.

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