the Irish for rights

Kingsfield on Higher Options

This time last year, I found myself explaining to concerned parents at the Higher Options Fair that law students’ small lecture load does not necessarily mean a small work load. Plus ça change. My colleagues have found themselves explaining much the same thing today at this year’s event. Briefly, law students should spend considerable amounts of time on independent reading, developing research skills (how to find what is relevant) and honing discernment and judgment (how to decide what to use of what is read) – these are all important practice skills which they learn in college.

In the US, variations on the Socratic Method are widely used (and just as widely discussed) in Law Schools to teach these skills, and it is one of the driving dramatic forces in The Paper Chase, a book/movie/tv series on which I have already commented here and here. Its great character was John Houseman‘s inconic Contracts Professor, Charles Kingsfield – the clip below is the first time we meet him in the tv series:

The case being discussed in the clip is Hawkins v McGee 84 N.H. 114, 146 A. 641 (Supreme Court of New Hampshire, 1929) (wikipedia; pdf), and Kingsfield’s victim is James T Hart, the confused first year law student, played by Timothy Bottoms, who is the central character in the series. But even though the series is nominally about Hart, as Tim Zinnecker recently commented on The Faculty Lounge, Houseman’s Kingsfield steals the show in every scene in which he appears. Timothy Burke on Easily Distracted acknowledged that calling students up on the carpet in an imperious Professor Kingsfield fashion is a beautiful style of teaching when done well (though he preferred the approach of his high school English teacher, who taught with passion). Kingsfield’s literary creator, the author John Jay Osborn Jr, noted A Change in Professor Kingsfield–and His Creator: over the course of book/movie/tv series, he grew more complicated. Todd J. Zywicki on the Volokh Conspiracy posed the question Who Was the Basis for Professor Kingsfield?, and The Faculty Lounge added a few more candidates to the list (before the link died). Moreover, in a tribute to the character’s enduring appeal, Michael Vitiello has written a full law review piece about him: “Professor Kingsfield: The Most Misunderstood Character in Literature” 33 Hofstra Law Review 955 (2005) (pdf). Indeed, in what was no doubt an intentional reference, the 2002 movie The Socratic Method (imdb), about first year law students in a fictional California law school, features a Professor Houseman.

My continuing mission is to become like Kingsfield every day. I teach Contract. That’s a start.

2 Responses to “Kingsfield on Higher Options”

  1. […] Australia (and in many ways even more than the obvious Paper Chase) Shrek Forever After is really A Movie About Contract […]

Leave a Reply



Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

Academic links


  • RSS Feed
  • RSS Feed
  • Subscribe via Email
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Archives by month

Categories by topic

My recent tweets

Blogroll (or, really, a non-blogroll)

What I'd like for here is a simple widget that takes the list of feeds from my existing RSS reader and displays it here as a blogroll. Nothing fancy. I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

I had built a blogroll here on my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Google Reader produced a line of html for each RSS subscription category, each of which I pasted here. So I had a list of my subscriptions as my blogroll, organised by category, which updated whenever I edited Google Reader. Easy peasy. However, with the sad and unnecessary demise of that product, so also went this blogroll. Please take a moment to mourn Google Reader. If there's an RSS reader which provides a line of html for the list of subscriptions, or for each RSS subscription category as Google Reader did, I'd happily use that. So, as I've already begged, I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

Meanwhile, please bear with me until I find a new RSS+Blogroll solution




Creative Commons License

This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. I am happy for you to reuse and adapt my content, provided that you attribute it to me, and do not use it commercially. Thanks. Eoin

Credit where it’s due

The image in the banner above is a detail from a photograph of the front of Trinity College Dublin night taken by Melanie May.

Others whose technical advice and help have proven invaluable in keeping this show on the road include Dermot Frost, Karlin Lillington, Daithí Mac Síthigh, and Antoin Ó Lachtnáin.

Thanks to Blacknight for hosting.