Thursday, August 2, 2012

Legal Historians Teaching Doctrine

In my initial post, I promised to address some grad student issues in my legal history blog posts.  Remarkably, the month has gone by, so I thought I would take a stab at at least attempting to fulfill this promise in this, my final post.

As Karen mentioned in her initial post, I'm starting a fellowship at Penn Law in the fall.  One of my obligations will be to teach--initially a small seminar based on my research, but later a more substantial doctrinal lecture.  I've solicited views from various advisors as to which class to teach, and gotten various, and sometimes contradictory, responses: I had initially thought about Federal Indian Law, which some endorsed; others argued something meatier and further afield from my core research interests, in the vein of Federal Courts, would be more impressive to hiring committees (even if teaching Fed Courts while writing a dissertation seems a bit of a challenge).

I figured I was probably not the only student in this situation--I know Karen has blogged some sage advice on these issues once you're on the job market, but I'm not quite at that stage yet--so I thought it might be good to open up a discussion about which doctrinal classes in the law school curriculum are best suited for legal historians.  This obviously depends on what you research, but it does seem that legal historians are overrepresented in certain areas, particularly Property.  I've been asked by non-legal historians why more historians don't teach Constitutional Law, but, like Karen noted in her earlier post, there seems to be consensus that these posts are reserved for specialists.  (This post from February also links to some good leads on how to think about being legal historian while teaching black-letter law).  I'm eager to hear about other people's views or suggestions, in the hope that it will be useful not merely to me (although that too), but to other students confronting the same issue.

I'd like to thank the Legal History Blog, and particularly Karen, for the invitation to blog here this past month.  And I hope Josh will be able to pick up the torch where I somewhat fumbingly left it and address some more issues of particular interest to students.