Historian Henry Steele Commager said, “History is useful in the sense that art is useful--or music or poetry or flowers; perhaps even in the sense that religion and philosophy is useful .... For without these things life would be poorer and meaner.” For law students who anticipate a career representing private and public clients and participating in public discussion, however, study of legal history carries rewards beyond intellectual stimulation and personal satisfaction. Law students contemplating client representation should ponder Justice Holmes's advice that “[h]istory must be a part of the study [of law], because without it we cannot know the precise scope of rules which it is our business to know.” Historian David McCullough set the compass for lawyers as public citizens: “You can't be a full participant in our democracy if you don't know our history.” Before a semester of collaborative exploration, the professor's threshold mission is to stimulate students' appreciation for legal history's practical and doctrinal value to their professional careers.
Douglas E. Abrams, Teaching Legal History in the Age of Practical Legal Education, 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 482 (2013).