Carnegie Enhances Legal Education

  • Education
  • 1921

Early in the twentieth century, rising demand for legal services led to a sharp increase in the number of lawyers, and a perceived decline in the professional standards of many of these newly minted practitioners. It was clear that reform of some kind was needed, but there was no clear leadership. Into this breach stepped the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (whose origins are described in our 1905 entry).

The foundation had previously sparked a dramatic upgrade of medical education by sponsoring an influential critique known as the Flexner Report. That led to years of thoroughgoing reform, including $94 million of spending at 25 medical schools by John Rockefeller’s General Education Board. (See details at the 1910 entry of our Medical Achievements list.)

Seeking to repeat this feat in legal education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching initiated two critiques of American law schools. These, along with promptings from Elihu Root, a prominent lawyer and Carnegie trustee, caused the American Bar Association to endorse higher standards of training. The ABA also partnered with the American Association of Law Schools to form the American Law Institute, which used $2.1 million of Carnegie funding to create accessible archives of the authoritative interpretations of U.S. law. ALI became the leading curator of court decisions and assisted in the development of the U.S. Uniform Commercial Code.