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SELECTED FROM DECISIONS OF
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN COURTS
WILLIAM E. MIKELL,
PROFESSOR OF LAW IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
AMERICAN CASEBOOK SERIES
JAMES BROWN SCOTT
WEST PUBLISHING COMPANY
ARCHIBALD GILCHRIST SINGLETARY and FRANK BARRON GRIER
The one learned in the Civil the other in the Common Law
In appreciation of a long and valued friendship
THE AMERICAN CASEBOOK
For years past the science of law has been taught by lectures, the use of text-books and more recently by the detailed study, in the class-room, of selected cases.
Each method has its advocates, but it is generally agreed that the lecture system should be discarded because in it the lecturer does the work and the student is either a willing receptacle or offers a passive resistance. It is not too much to say that the lecture system is doomed.
Instruction by the means of text-books as a supplement or substitute for the formal lecture has made its formal entry into the educational world and obtains widely; but the system is faulty and must pass away as the exclusive means of studying and teaching law. It is an improvement on the formal lecture in that the student works, but if it cannot be said that he works to no purpose, it is a fact that he works from the wrong end. The rule is learned without the reason, or both rule and reason are stated in the abstract as the resultant rather than as the process. If we forget the rule we cannot solve the problem; if we have learned to solve the problem it is a simple matter to formulate a rule of our own. The text-book method may strengthen the memory; it may not train the mind, nor does it necessarily strengthen it. A text, if it be short, is at best a summary, and a summary presupsuposes previous knowledge.
If, however, law be considered as a science rather than a collection of arbitrary rules and regulations, it follows that it should be studied as a science. Thus to state the problem is to solve it; the laboratory method has displaced the lecture, and the text yields to the actual experiment. The law reports are in more senses than one books of experiments, and, by studying the actual case, the student co-operates with the judge and works out the conclusion however complicated the facts or the principles involved. A study of cases arranged historically develops the knowledge of the law, and each case is seen to be not an isolated fact but a necessary link in the chain of development. The study of the case is clearly the most practical method, for the student already does in his undergraduate days what he must do all his life; it is curiously the most theoretical and the most practical. For a discussion of the case in all its parts develops analysis, the comparison of many cases establishes a general principle, and