Clayton Gillette

My philosophy of curriculum selection can be summarized in one phrase: Don’t choose courses; choose professors! Legal education, done well, consists largely of exposing yourself to the various methodological approaches to law that will enrich your analysis and that will be applicable throughout your legal career. The substance of what you learn is almost secondary. You will learn lots of doctrinal material in any course, but that doctrine is likely to undergo significant changes during your legal career. What you should be concentrating on now is the unique opportunity to confront different perspectives from which you can evaluate and critique any legal material.

This means that you should select professors whose teaching styles you find congenial and who will introduce you to the intricacies of different methodologies. NYU Law School is blessed with faculty members versed in philosophical, doctrinal, feminist, economic, and critical approaches to law. They treat law not as an autonomous discipline, but as a reflection of the politics, psychology, and economics that pervade our society. Understanding the interdisciplinary nature of legal study will ultimately allow you better to appreciate the foundations of the doctrine with which you are working, and thus better to serve your clients.

Within those broad parameters, I encourage you to obtain what I would call a "liberal arts legal education." Take a course in an area in which you never intend to practice. If you expect to live your professional life serving the disadvantaged, take a course in corporate law, just to become informed about how these important entities operate. If you expect to live your professional life in the corporate world, take a course in criminal procedure, just to become informed about how law treats those least well off in our society. If you intend to practice only domestic law (a difficult task in our shrinking legal world), make sure that you take a course in either private or public international law so that you can become familiar with other legal systems. Invest in a course in legal history, or jurisprudence, or law and economics, just to become more conversant in an approach that you find appealing. Take a colloquium so that you can become familiar with the way in which researchers scrutinize an issue to which they have devoted months or years.

For the great majority of you, this is your last opportunity for formal education. Used wisely, it will be the capstone of your educational experience.