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History of the Yale Law School: The Tercentennial Lectures Edited by Anthony T. Kronman Yale University Press 304 pages, $30 The history of an institution — especially a legal one — is a risky subject, especially if the history is authorized. A book of this nature may be no more than an extended public relations brochure for what may not be, regardless of its approach, a compelling subject. So it is no small compliment to say that “History of the Yale Law School: The Tercentennial Lectures” is neither captive to its subject nor boring. To the contrary, the authors assembled by Dean Anthony T. Kronman tell interesting stories well, and make a strong case for using the history of the Yale Law School to illustrate developments in legal education and in the larger legal and political culture. The enduring presence of Bill and Hillary Clinton has popularized the notion that among law schools, Yale is unique in propelling its students into positions of political leadership. (It is not controversial to note that neither Yale College nor Harvard Business School is cited as a pivotal institution in the ascendancy of President George W. Bush; nor that while John Kerry’s years at Yale College have been scrutinized, his time at Boston College Law School seems to have been no more than a required stop on his way up the political ladder.) Certainly Yale encourages the view that the law school is special. Thus a recurring theme in the book is an attempt to determine when the law school became the Yale Law School, distinguished by its interdisciplinary approach to the study of law, intensive focus on public law and policy, and its role as a training ground for the preparation of public leaders and law professors. Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Texas Law School who maintains an excellent Web site on law teaching, recently said that Yale has a “stranglehold” on the profession. John Langbein, currently Sterling Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School, argues that the modern law school has its origins in the 1870s. On the verge of extinction in 1869, Yale Law School sought to distinguish itself from its competitors — principally then-dominant Columbia (which benefited from its role as a pipeline to Wall Street) — by tying the law school to the university and by emphasizing the study of public and international law. With less than extensive source materials available, Langbein provides an elegant account of the history of law school, which began as “a proprietary school in the law office of a practicing lawyer” in New Haven in the early 19th century. Robert Gordon, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School, explores what now seems like the most romantic period in the law school’s history: the 1930s, when the legal realists sought to remake the law school in between stints for the Franklin Roosevelt administration in Washington, D.C., and boisterous nights out on the town in New Haven. “This was a high-spirited and hard-drinking body of companions,” Gordon observes. “[A]pparently [professor Jerome] Frank brought the bootleg liquor up from New York.” In their classes and writings, the realists emphasized the need for an understanding of legal institutions informed by the social sciences. In their jobs at the New Deal agencies, former Yale Law School professors such as William O. Douglas (as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission), Thurman Arnold (as head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice), and Jerome Frank (as general counsel of two agencies, and also a commissioner and chairman of the SEC) sought to redistribute the balance of power between private corporations and the government agencies responsible for their regulation. For this set of professors, the New Deal thus provided opportunities for intellectual development and professional advancement. (President Roosevelt appointed Douglas to the Supreme Court, Arnold to the D.C. Circuit, and Frank to the 2nd Circuit.) Contributor Robert Stevens notes that the most celebrated legal realists — including Douglas, Arnold, Frank, Karl Llewellyn, and Walton Hamilton — were full-time teachers at Yale, cumulatively, for no more than a dozen years. Nevertheless, their influence on the school was considerable. Laura Kalman, another contributor to this history, has argued elsewhere that the legal realists ultimately may have accomplished no more than the inclusion of “materials” (for example, readings in history, sociology, and economics) along with the appellate cases in their textbooks. Perhaps, but the interdisciplinary approach of the realists nevertheless continued at Yale long after the New Deal, and is still very much alive today. Stevens, who taught at the law school from 1959 to 1976, argues that the modern Yale Law School did not begin until Eugene Rostow became dean in 1956. Rostow recruited exceptional faculty — more than a dozen genuine stars, including the next four deans (Louis Pollak, Abe Goldstein, Harry Wellington, and Guido Calabresi) and five future judges (Pollak, Calabresi, Ellen Peters, Ralph Winter, and Robert Bork) — and managed to double the size of the faculty while maintaining the small size of the student body. Stevens credits the “generous faculty-student ratio” for making the law school “unique, with its small groups and diversified program.” Kalman, professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has perhaps the most interesting story to tell. With access to an extensive array of sources and the benefit of interviews with a number of relevant parties, she details the upheaval resulting from the arrival of the politics of the 1960s at the law school. During this period, law students confronted the administration with a litany of claims, ranging from the arbitrariness of the grading system to the injustice of the Vietnam War. Protests and heated rhetoric became the norm around the law school. Although Yale Law School survived the turbulence of that era, Kalman explores the possibility that it was the junior faculty who ultimately paid the price for the constant confrontations. In the early 1970s, six young professors departed the law school after not being promoted. In the most egregious case, an accomplished young professor with fairly radical political views, John Griffiths, was denied a routine promotion to associate professor. With Griffiths, it appears that what he published — including an essay “condemning contemporary American liberal ideology and the work of Stanford’s Herbert Packer in particular” — caused him to perish. (Kalman notes that Packer was close to some of the professors recruited by Dean Rostow, and let them know “that he found Griffiths’ tone ‘belligerently bludgeoning and personal.’”) More than any other law school, Yale has a platonic conception of itself. The essays in this history describe gracefully how the school developed its current idea of itself, and provide a balanced account of the extent to which it has lived up to that idea. Rodger Citron, a 1992 graduate of Yale Law School, is an attorney in Washington, D.C.

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