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January 21, 2013

Dr. King’s birthday

by dan rodriguez

As we celebrate MLK day, I would urge readers to reflect on the contributions legal educators and their students — at Northwestern and other law schools — have made to the legacy of Dr. King.  We are in the justice business, after all.  Our profession demands scrupulous attention to the rule of law and to promoting equal justice under the law.  Hard to see this as anything but rather banal in the face of client service, billable hours, and other severe demands of the day-to-day practice of law.  Yet, law schools are the place for deep, sustained reflection, nested in a coherent training program, on what it means to strive through our work for equal justice.  Out from under the particulars of our law school curriculum, we ask in myraid ways the question “what is the purpose of law?”  Dr. King and so many others understood this in idealistic terms.  The purpose centrally is to develop structures, instiutions, and rules to implement ordered liberty, to safeguard civil rights, and to facilitate and maintain justice for all individuals.

The “purpose” question can also be understood in quite practical terms.  And so we as legal educators work on our teaching, our research, and our service to carry out specific, constructive strategies to realize the aims of law and the legal profession.  We frequently fail, to be sure.  And the demands of the profession crowd out the larger matters which undergird our central objectives.  But, on this day of remembrance, we should remember why the legal profession plays such a central role in contemporary society and why legal education ought to be focused on justice considerations, that is, on the objectives that were so powerfully reflected in Dr. King’s life and achievements.  Moreover, we should commit ourselves to making real improvements in this vein in both the profession and the academy.


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