The Dean Who Went to Law School: Crossing Borders and Searching for Purpose in North American Legal Education, 1930–1950
AbstractThis article is about the making of modern legal education in North America. It is a case study of the lives of two law schools, the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law and the University of Minnesota Law School, and their respective deans, Wilbur Bowker and Everett Fraser, in the decades surrounding the Second World War. The article follows Bowker’s unorthodox route to Alberta’s deanship via his graduate training under the experimental “Minnesota Plan” — Fraser’s long-forgotten effort to place public service at the centre of American legal education. In detailing an overlooked moment of transition and soulsearching in North American legal education, this article underlines the personalities, ideologies, circumstances, and practices that combined to forge the still dominant model of university-based legal education across the continent. Highlighting the movement of people and ideas, this study corrects a tendency to understand the history of law schools as the story of single institutions and isolated visionaries. It also reveals the dynamic ways in which law schools absorbed and refracted the period’s ideological and political concerns into teaching practices and institutional arrangements. In bold experiment and innate conservatism, personal ambition and institutional constraints, and, above all else, faith in the power of law and lawyers, the postwar law school was born.
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