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The appointment of Professor James Landis to the position of Dean of the Harvard Law School bodes well for the future of law instruction at this University from both a progressive and a practical view-point. Not only is Mr. Landis fully cognizant of the tradition inherent in the school as it stands today, having served as a professor for eight years, but he has served faithfully and well as a public official, performing difficult and complex administrative tasks. That he will combine a thorough knowledge of the dominent trends in present-day legislation and the laws of the land, from a point of view of changing needs, with an open and liberal attitude toward the teaching in the university, is practically certain. The law school could ask no brighter future.
Yet, while Harvard has been pre-eminent for many decades for the excellence of her legal instruction, she can no longer lay claim to a position of unrivalled superiority. Both Yale and Columbia have made justifiable names for themselves, too, and several colleges in the west are fast coming into prominence in this respect. Ardent adherents may exclaim that Harvard's law training is as fine today as ever and that the years of tradition should in no whit be changed, but such sentiments are equivalent to virtual reaction. With the inception of a new housekeeper comes the obvious time to clean house and the law faculty might well profit by such time-tested, if homely, anioms.
Primary among the criticisms of present conditions is that an over-lax system of admissions results in wholesale slashing of the enrollment after the first year. At present many men drift into law-school upon graduation without definite purpose. They continue to drift through the first year and are dropped immediately following their final examinations. Such a system clogs the normal functions of a post-graduate academy and is obviously wrong. Stiffer entrance requirements, such as are in force at Yale, would eliminate the idle and the unfit, and would increase the effectiveness of both faculty and student body.
Second among the major points against the present system is the practical inability of the average student to guage whether or not his schedule of home-work is in keeping with his final requirements. Many a student, accustomed to the less intense atmosphere of the university, does not know whether he is working too hard or too little during the major part of the year. Were a system of regular examinations held during the year, if only to enable the student to adjust his home-work hours, much of the last minute preparation in June and the subsequent examination failure would be eliminated.
Since Mr. Landis is taking over the duties of Dean of the Law Faculty and since a new chapter in the school's history is surely commencing with his inception, it would seem obvious that many improvements might be instituted. In view of the fact that the mentioned criticisms are both wide spread and sustained by fact, it may be hoped that they will be seriously considered in the near future.
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