Justice Scalia: “Take the Bread and Butter Courses”

Recently Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. When asked about the single best piece of advice he could give law students, he responded that students shouldn’t take “frill courses.” He continued:

The only time you’re going to have an opportunity to study a whole area of the law systematically is in law school. You should not waste that opportunity. Take the bread-and-butter courses. Do not take, ‘law and women,’ do not take ‘law and poverty,’ do not take ‘law and anything.’

I agree to an extent with the Justice, but given how specialized the practice of law has become, there is definitely value in taking some focused courses and learning about a specific area of law, or particularly how to practice law and the skills associated with practicing.

(photo: Shutterstock: 87293185)

  • Julian

    Because god forbid we take a subject purely for the reason that we might enjoy it.

  • ajesquire

    I disagree. I don’t think learning about the Vosburg v. Putney school district and 16th century “easements from prior use” provide any more relevant knowledge than courses that address the actual impact of laws and judicial decisions (i.e. “law and . . . ” courses).

    Of course, Scalia’s agenda is that he’d rather not have anyone think about the awful real-world applications of his decisions.

  • southern bitter

    Scalia is 100% right in my mind. Is “law and women” on the bar exam? The goal is to get hired. Period. The fluffy courses are an easy grade and a waste of time. Heaven forbid we actually get a real education, one geared at passing the bar? Why waste your time learning a specialized practice when you may end up working a completely different specialized practice in the real world? I took a 3L seminar on the death penalty. Most interesting class I ever took. What I should have taken was commercial transactions, you know why? It was on the bar exam. I will never come across a death penalty issue in my field. It would be nice if we could all pick our fields, but unfortunately, with the market the way it is, we kind of have to take what we can get. Save the specialized learning for the firm that actually hires you.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewsalzwedel Matthew Salzwedel

    Could Justice Scalia have been referring to courses like this?

    • Steve

      Exactly.

  • Derek

    That is ridiculous. Each person should look at where they want to work and based on a career path select courses. For example, if you want to practice in big firm life focus on corporate law. Or, maybe you want to be a criminal lawyer, take evidence and advocacy courses. Maybe you just got into law school and are just interested then take whatever the heck you want. One thing is certain though because of people like Scalia you will probably question your decision to practice law very often and might leave law for something else. The point is when you get in, have fun, balance interest with your career and enjoy it.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Why not just take the classes you want to take, because you want to take them?

    With the exception of civil procedure and legal writing/moot court, none of my law school classes — bread and butter or not — taught me much of anything about lawyering.

  • Ped

    Sounds like Judge Scalia hates women and the poor…