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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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In Praise of the Casebook

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Legal Research and Writing (LARC in UHLC’s unfortunate acronym parlance – Legal Analysis Research and Composition, perhaps? who knows…) is the only course we’ve had so far that doesn’t use a casebook. When I arrived at law school, I found the case book a perplexing system at best – full of accidental precedent, jurisprudential pretzel-twisting and red herrings, cases present only because they represent misapplication of the law.

I make this point because I have since learned to stop worrying and love the casebook, to spot and appreciate the cautionary tales of tortured logic, the Machiavellian art of analogizing and distinguishing precedent. Yet here I am in the second half of Legal Writing & Research slogging through a wilted dandelion of a textbook of all things and now I’m wondering why, why, why am I reading this mind-atrophying instruction manual?

Shapo is actually pretty good, as textbooks go, but to me this only emphasizes the inherent inferiority of the textbook to the casebook. All semester long I found myself longing to see clear, complete examples in context, far more than the half-page samples provided in the text. Instead of being shown, I’m being told; told by a very boring person with no hands to gesture with, incapable of modulating the sound of his voice. Why oh why can’t we have a casebook?

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Category: legal research and writing


One Response

  1. McClard says:

    I don’t think the Shapo textbook is good, as textbooks go. I think it sucks. It’s boring, and lacks sophistication, charm or even gimmickry that might draw the student into doing anything more than read the assigned pages with only the barest minimum of interest and care.
    My roommate gave me an LRW casebook. Apparently they used to use them at our school only a couple of years ago. It’s pretty good, actually. You are right. A casebook would certainly be apropos for LARC. (I have the “Fundamentals of Legal Research, 8th ed. Merksy, Dunn).

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