The Corner


Would It Help if Law Schools Tried Teaching Virtue?

As the thousands of lawyer jokes attest, the legal profession is perceived as having a problem with virtue. One law school, that of Faulkner University in Alabama, is trying to do something about that with an introductory course taught by Professor Adam MacLeod. It gets the incoming students thinking about questions of virtue and morality — questions that ought to be in the minds of lawyers throughout their careers.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor MacLeod writes about his Foundations of Law course.

“In the course,” he writes, “students consider matters both profound and useful. They examine the relationship between legal justice and natural justice, the difference between rights and privileges, the operation of formal logic in legal arguments, different approaches to interpretation and adjudication, and much more.”

Notice — nothing about “social justice.”

The course works like a “Great Books” course, having students read the great books of the law: Blackstone, Joseph Story, and more. It also includes parables from the Bible.

MacLeod concludes:

Law students who grapple with such questions come gradually to see transcendent truths. They are not daunted by changes in the law, for they can locate new rules within enduring categories. And they perceive the ends that ennoble their practice of law.

It seems to me that this course is a splendid addition to the first-year law-school curriculum. Unfortunately, most law-school deans would snicker if a faculty member were to propose anything like it.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.