CDTA: Reshaping Legal Education For The Modern Era
Education is one of the greatest privileges that we have as human beings. The opportunity to learn in any setting, especially a formal one, is special.
It should be cherished since not everyone has this opportunity. There is no excuse for not working as hard as possible in any environment of higher learning. The possibilities are endless.
In 2019, legal education is transforming. It’s a transition to a new era. The change is far from complete and, hopefully, ongoing and consistent. Education, especially legal education, is seeking ways to serve the needs of law students better, even if it means discarding traditions that date back over a hundred years. CDTA is changing the way students learn about the law and the way students learn to become lawyers.
An interesting example of this is the way law schools view and use the Socratic method. As an attempt to draw out the foundational underpinnings of a viewpoint and, in most cases, refute it, the Greek philosopher, Socrates (470-399 BC), engaged in an exercise where continual questions were asked until a contradiction was exposed, thus proving the fallacy of the initial assumption. This form of questioning became known as the “Socratic Method.”
The Socratic Method was and still is a valuable teaching tool used by law professors in the classroom. However, many have debated its usefulness, or perhaps their debate is about the way it is used. The following are opposing and interesting reactions to the movie, “The Paper Chase,” a 1973 film which, while offering viewers a real-life sample of the law school experience, provided a good dose of the Socratic method in its classroom scenes. The law school’s review is a little defensive, to say the least, while the former student’s review is passionate and unwavering.
The University of Chicago Law School’s review:
John Houseman may have won an Oscar for his impressive performance, but if anyone ever did teach a law school class like his Professor Kingsfield, no one at Chicago does today. Instead, our students discover quickly that the Socratic method is a tool and a good one that is used to engage a large group of students in a discussion while using probing questions to get at the heart of the subject matter. The Socratic method is not used at Chicago to intimidate, nor to “break down” new law students, but instead for the very reason Socrates developed it: to develop critical thinking skills in students and enable them to approach the law as intellectuals.
A former University of Chicago Law Student’s review:
This is really the only serious flick about law school life. It’s brooding and intense, perfectly capturing the dynamic between law professor and student. The movie is worth watching just for actor John Houseman’s academy award-winning performance as Professor Kingsfield. Every school still has a professor that knows how to absolutely terrify the 1Ls — for us at U Chicago, that was Richard “The Hammer” Helmholz. The Paper Chase’s Professor Kingsfield is like a distillation every one of these scary Arch-villain type professors.
Law schools and students all have opinions about the Socratic method but when used as intended, the Socratic method is a valuable tool, especially with other educational tools, both traditional and modern, in developing students into effective and passionate attorney-advocates.
The Socratic method optimally should be used to engage a large group of students in a discussion using probing questions to reveal the heart of the subject matter. Professors Kingsfield, Heimholz, and others may have flavored their Socratic classroom discussions with a bit too much intimidation, browbeating, and contempt decades ago. Surely this style was disheartening and detrimental to some students.
CDTA and other modern law schools use the Socratic method not to intimidate nor pressure new law students, but instead, for the true purpose that Socrates formulated this method of debate, which is to develop critical thinking skills so that students may approach a subject, in this case, the law, on a truly intellectual level. Critical thinking is one of the most important skills in the set of soft skills necessary for every lawyer’s success.
At CDTA, we use the Socratic method in furtherance of our goal of preparing ready and competent trial advocates. All classes take place in facilities that simulate a true courtroom environment. These facilities include:
- A full-functioning authentic California Trial Courtroom;
- A realistic California Appellate Courtroom; and
- An operational Federal Courtroom.
In 2012, CDTA opened its doors featuring not only a progressive yet comprehensive learning platform but a more practical and modern approach to legal education. CDTA combines the best of the old while embracing the promise of the new.
The day of the relentless scary arch-villain Socratic professor who ended every sentence with a question mark is over.
Our first classes began September 2012, and we have served the residents of the Coachella Valley for close to eight years… It won’t be long before we are happily and successfully celebrating our tenth anniversary! At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.