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Con Law for Undergrads and Lawyers

Wellington1.jpgMy Dean at the Yale Law School, Harry H. Wellington, passed away last week at the age of 84. The New York Times lays out the details of a career noted for originality and breadth. However, I would be remiss to not recount an anecdote that gives evidence of Dean Wellington’s humor, particularly because this story has some relevance to Dartmouth undergraduates contemplating the study of law.

At the first meeting of the incoming class, Dean Wellington would regularly include the following in his remarks (I am paraphrasing):

“You are a remarkably talented group of people and the range of your past experience is impressive. However, some of you might be wondering whether your own particular backgroud puts you at a disadvantage in the study of law as compared to your classmates. Please do not worry. In our lengthy experience at the Yale Law School, we have found that despite your differences in education and learning, you will proceed to study law on quite equal terms with each other — with only one exception. Some of you have already begun your study of constitutional law as undergraduates; others have not. In light of this discrepancy, the faculty has decided to establish remedial classes in this area.

These classes will be reserved for anyone among you who has studied constitutional law as an undergraduate…”

Addendum: The Times repeats a note of praise for Harry Wellington that we would all do well to appreciate:

In a 2001 tribute, Judge Winter wrote that Professors Wellington and [Alexander] Bickel were representatives of a dying breed. “Today it is difficult to find people with intellectual rigor who will criticize a court’s work based on its reasoning in decisions with which they agree,” Judge Winter wrote.

This space regularly laments the absence of similar integrity in our daily lives.


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