FROM PAPER CHASE TO SIR, WITH LOVE
159
II. Thinking Like a Lawyer
You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come
in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.
Professor Kingsfield in
The Paper Chase
(1973)
.
6
While “thinking like a lawyer” is not the purpose of legal coursework in
Higher Education Administration graduate programs, knowing how to effec-
tively and professionally function within the law is
.
7
Today, few faculty seek-
ing to train legally-savvy professionals would choose to emulate Professor
Kingsfield’s classroom management style or educational philosophy
.
8
In the years since his combative classroom environment first induced
fear of law school, Kingsfield’s methods have fallen out of favor
,
9
but the
notion that students need to learn how to practice the law as much as — if
not more so than — the mechanics (what) and philosophical tenets (why)
6 James Bridges,
[Motion Picture] (1973).
7 A
MERICAN
C
OLLEGE
P
ERSONNEL
A
SSOCIATION AND
N
ATIONAL
A
SSOCIATION OF
S
TUDENT
P
ERSONNEL
A
DMINISTRATORS
,
P
C
A
S
A
P
(2010); C
OUNCIL FOR THE
A
DVANCEMENT OF
S
TANDARDS IN
H
IGHER
E
DUCATION
,
S
H
E
(8th ed., 2012).
8 Professor Kingsfield, an irascible Harvard Law faculty member and fictional character
in
The Paper Chase
, taught in the Socratic method. His students felt terror in his class-
room and believed that he enjoyed skewering them in public. As the quote suggests,
the professor was committed to teaching and shared responsibility in the classroom,
but his relationship with his students was aloof, threatening, and the antithesis of mu-
tual power or respect.
9 Michael Vitiello,
Professor Kingsfield: The Most Misunderstood Character in Literature
,
(2005).
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