Langdell, Christopher Columbus

Langdell, Christopher Columbus lăngˈdəl [key], 1826–1906, American teacher of law, b. New Boston, N.H. He practiced in New York City from 1854 to 1870, when he was appointed Dane professor of law at Harvard; in 1875 he became dean of Harvard law school. Together with J. B. Ames, who succeeded him as dean in 1895, he revised the curriculum of the school. Langdell is especially famed for the introduction of the “case method” in the study of law. In his view the principles of law are best learned by inductive study of the actual legal situations (the cases) in which they occur. Much opposition was expressed by conservative teachers who believed that an abstract formulation of the law was the essential need of the student. Langdell's theory was first adopted at Harvard, then at Columbia law school, and in time gained almost universal acceptance. Langdell prepared casebooks in the fields of contracts, equity, and sales.

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