Book Review: What The Best Law Teachers Do. By Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess & Sophie M. Sparrow

AuthorMary Pat Treuthart
Published date01 July 2014
Date01 July 2014
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Asian Journal of Legal Education, 1, 2 (2014): 153–165
158 Book Reviews
central theories, aims and approaches of clinical legal education from a global standpoint, with
specific stress on the social justice mission are exceptional. Bloch has brought together an impressive
and diverse group of committed legal educators, drawn largely from the organization GAJE, interested
in promoting legal education reform around the world to provide a great comparative analysis.
Eshika Maji, Kruthika N.S. and Trisha Dasgupta
Editorial Assistants, AJLE
What The Best Law Teachers Do. By Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess & Sophie M.
Sparrow. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, Harvard University Press, 2013, 368
pp. ISBN: 9780674049147
DOI: 10.1177/2322005814530335
Published by the Harvard University Press in August 2013, the book ‘What the Best Law Teachers
Do’ is a qualitative and ‘systematic, rigorous study of excellent law teachers’ written by Professors
Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess and Sophie Sparrow. After visiting the law schools of the
profiled teachers, the authors observed their classes, read their scholarships, solicited input from the
students and alumni and interviewed the subjects themselves, before analyzing the teaching techniques,
attitudes and personal qualities of 26 U.S. law professors who were nominated by their students or
colleagues. Despite the differences amongst the teachers in their areas of expertise, the location of their
home institutions or the size of the classes they teach, the authors share a number of similarities. Most
importantly, these teachers are passionate about teaching and facilitating the success of their students
as aspiring legal professionals.
Worldwide, efforts to reform legal education are changing the way law courses have been taught
for centuries. Greater emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking and acquisition of practical skills is
deemed necessary for students to compete effectively in the transnational legal market and to assume
the various roles required by contemporary lawyers. The book’s authors, who have taught, lectured
and served as consultants across the globe, suggest that characteristics of excellent teachers transcend
location and culture. This review concludes by briefly examining whether this statement applies equally
to law teachers in the Asian region.
Anyone who has ever stood in front of a classroom has agonized over how best to reach out to the
students. To be a master of the specific course material is one thing, and communicating the same to
students is a different thing altogether.
Such worries are particularly acute for teachers in the U.S. where law schools are no longer struggling
just to maintain their rankings; they are battling for their very existence. Rising costs, fewer job openings
and smaller salaries have cut into law school applications. The pressure to ensure a good education to
those students who, despite the odds, choose to attend law school has never been greater.

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