Transsystemia – Are We Approaching a New Langdellian Moment? Is McGill Leading the Way?

Peter L. Strauss, Columbia Law School


Late in the 19th century, as our economy was transformed into a truly national one, legal education was transformed by the adoption of a teaching technique – Langdell's Socratic Method – that succeeded in creating law graduates confident of their capacity to be professionals in ANY American common law jurisdiction – national lawyers even in the absence of a national common law. Today, as the economy is once again transforming, now internationally, lawyers have an equivalent need to be confident of their capacity to perform across national boundaries. The paper briefly describes the way in which McGill University's Faculty of Law has transformed the education its students received by teaching common law and civil law systems side-by-side, transsystemically, with apparent success in meeting this need. It then discusses the special advantages McGill has in this regard, the obstacles that would face an American law school seeking to chart a similar course, and some possible means of doing so. Here, too, it suggests, change may not be strictly voluntary, but driven by what the market for law graduates increasingly demands.