Hastings Law Journal


Through the method of critique, a teacher, by examining a student's work, guides the student into professional habits of analysis and creativity. Effective critiquing is made particularly difficult by the paradox that direct explanation cannot teach lawyerly thinking and by the frustration and anger that this paradox causes for students. Sometimes, however, the failure of critique to accomplish its goals is due to the inartful use of the method. In addition to being a tool for teaching analytical arts, critique is itself an analytical art requiring pedagogical subtlety and skill. Although critique is the basic medium of clinical teaching and is used throughout the law school curriculum, its artistry largely has remained latent, its nature and principles generally escaping inquiry. Thus, this Article provides a preliminary inquiry into the art of critique. Among the issues that the Article describes are the role of a Socratic dialogue in critique; how a Socratic dialogue succeeds or fails; the difference between a Socratic dialogue in a critique and a Langdellian dialogue in a classroom; the relationship between creativity and lawyerly thinking; how critique can promote or repress creativity; some of the barriers that both students and teachers throw up against critique; and some of the ways in which those barriers can be overcome.

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