Washington Law Review


When teaching law to students is to be done, the professor's lot is not a happy one. W.S. Gilbert did not write those lines, but he inspired them. More accurate than his, they describe the attitude of most law teachers toward classroom tasks since shortly after 1870 when Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell introduced the case method of instruction at Harvard Law School. The only task law professors find more onerous is reading and grading examination books. Happily, there are exceptions. Robert L. Fletcher is the most striking exception I have known. He appears to enjoy reading examination papers. He even quotes short passages to his traveling companions while enjoying the sunshine of a Mexican resort during winter break. That two of his four children—Susan Fletcher French and William A. Fletcher—have followed their father into law teaching at U.C.L.A. and Berkeley, respectively, suggests that Bob's unusual trait may be genetic. That might be impossible to verify, unfortunately, if my memory of Biology 101 is accurate. Geneticists need at least one whole bottle full of fruit flies to draw any conclusion. Assembling a bottle full of law professors would be both difficult and inhumane.

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