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November 4, 2011

Is wisdom a goal of legal education?

Last week I gave a paper at Baylor for a conference on "Educating for Wisdom."  It's an intriguing and challenging idea, and one I wrestled with for a while.

We certainly hope for wisdom in the products of our schools-- that is, lawyers and judges-- so it makes sense that we would do something as part of the educational process directed towards that hope.  If we do, though, it rarely seems to be intentional.

My own paper was premised on the idea that wisdom has something to do with decision-making which is rooted in principle.  This is different than most of our legal education process, where we teach decision-making as directed by rules.  Principles are different than rules; the latter direct an outcome (ie, not stealing), while the former tell us what values to consider in reaching an outcome (ie, mercy). 

The full paper, which includes some concrete ideas about educating towards wisdom, is available for download here.

-- Mark Osler


November 4, 2011 | Permalink


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Not sure you can teach wisdom. From my experience, wisdom has come from experience and practice. Making mistakes, having consequences and gaining insight from these experiences is where wisdom comes from, at least in my opinion. There is a limit in what can be taught; taking legal knowledge and applying it to many cases in one's field and doing so for a lifetime is where true wisdom resides. This is just the opinion of an estates and tax attorney who has practiced for over 30 years.

Posted by: Steven J Fromm | Dec 9, 2011 3:52:16 PM

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