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Who Was the Basis for Professor Kingsfield?

Can anyone tell me who was the basis for Professor Kingsfield's character in "The Paper Chase"? Kingsfield, of course, does the famous "hairy hand" case of Hawkins v. McGee in the first day of class. So presumably he is using Fuller's casebook on contracts, which as I understand it, used to begin with remedies. To the best of my knowledge during that age, Fuller's casebook was the only one that began with remedies. Did all Contracts professors at Harvard used Fuller's casebook during that era?

In this vein, a few years ago I read Scott Gerber's marvelous article, "Corbin and Fuller's Cases on Contracts (1942?): The Casebook That Never Was," 72 Fordham Law Review 595 (2003) (I can't find a link to the full article on-line). Gerber discusses the history of the efforts of Corbin and Fuller to co-author a Contracts casebook, a project that eventually foundered on Fuller's insistence of starting the book with remedies instead of formation. Of course, Randy is the modern heir to the Fuller tradition, as he uses the same structure for his casebook today.

So I assume that Kingsfield was using Fuller's casebook, but was Fuller the inspiration for Kingsfield's character?

Update:

The kind folks at the Fordham Law Review have provided instructions on getting a copy of Prof. Gerber's article--it is a piece full of great stuff. My favorite part of the correspondence is the widespread teeth-gnashing caused by Erie among commercial law scholars. The full article is now available here: http://law.fordham.edu/ihtml/page1.ihtml?imac=883

(click on "Search Articles"; search for "Gerber").

Arkady:
Wikipedia says:


There are several possible inspirations for the character. Retired Harvard Law professor Clark Byse is said to have been the inspiration for the character's position at Harvard Law School, though not the character's personality. [1] According to John Houseman, in a lecture he gave at Molloy College in 1984, the inspiration for Kingsfield was crusty professor Edward "Bull" Warren, also reflected in the Boston Globe in 2004. [2] In his lecture, Houseman noted that Kingsfield's behavior was actually a toned-down version of Warren's famous classroom rudeness, as enshrined in classroom lore, and recounted several examples of the professor's putdowns.


You'll have to go there for the links, I'm afraid.
11.13.2007 9:06am
Susan D Smith (mail):
A Google search turns this up:

Harvard Law School Byrne Professor of Administrative Law Emeritus Clark Byse... Byse is considered by many to be the inspiration for John Houseman's character Charles Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase.

He died on Oct. 9.

http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2007/10/09_byse.php

Sue Smith


Susan D Smith
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11.13.2007 9:17am
Craig Oren (mail):
But did Byse ever teach a first-year course? He was an administrative law maven, and was the co-author with Walter Gellhorn of the leading administrative law casebook. I would think that a first-year teacher would be the model for Kingsfield, because, even in the old days, upper-level classes were often not taught in a "Kingsfieldian" way.
11.13.2007 9:38am
Eric Muller (www):
OK, I'll fess up. It was me.
11.13.2007 10:07am
Richard Riley (mail):
Eric Muller lies. I am Spartacus!
11.13.2007 10:12am
Dennis Nolan (mail):
The author, Jay Osborne, was a classmate of mine at Harvard when he wrote The Paper Chase. My section had Byse for contracts; I think Jay's section had Lon Fuller, the definitive anti-Kingsfield. By our time, Fuller was the mildest man imaginable; he was not then a model for Kingsfield and I doubt that he ever could have been. (Jay has taught at California law schools so maybe he reads this blog. If so, I hope he'll speak from the horse's mouth.)

Our understanding was that Jay pulled together historical and current anecdotes from various teachers to create a composite character. Bull Warren was long before our time, but from his legent came the incident of giving a student a dime to call his mother and tell her he was coming home. From Byse's contemporary practice came the incident (which may only have been on the TV show rather than the book) of "shrouding" a student after some particularly dumb comment.

I know that Byse did that because I was his victim in my year. After the third time I mentioned Drennan v. Star Paving, then a relatively new Traynor opinion that Byse called "the worst decision that Traynor ever wrote," Byse walked over to my seat, mimed taking off his sport coat and putting it over my head as a shroud, and said "Nolan, shut up for the rest of the semester."

Yes, we used the Fuller book and began with the Hairy Hand. I don't knoe if all sections used that book, but I imagine Fuller's did, so that was the obvious starting point for the Kingsfield story. As if to demonstrate the replication of academic traditions, I taught contracts when I began teaching, used Fuller's casebook, and had almost as much fun with the Hairy Hand as Kingsfield did.
11.13.2007 10:25am
Zywicki (mail):
Thanks guys, for some reason I didn't turn up those Wikipedia pages. Sorry for my incompetence.
11.13.2007 11:56am
fdl (mail):
Aren't casebooks kind of outdated? Surely there are better ways of teaching law than reading old cases?
11.13.2007 12:01pm
KRIS:
FDL:

Not a lawyer, are you?
11.13.2007 12:21pm
fdl (mail):
KRIS,
Actually, yes I am. And your question is very telling.
In law school, I considered the casebook method an antiquated and convoluted way of teaching the law. It was one of those things that everyone keeps doing because it has always been that way. Sort of like a hazing ritual. I question it's value. (But I don't have time to answer the obvious question, what would you do in its place.)
11.13.2007 12:23pm
Damon:
But the law *is* the cases.

And to understand the implications of present cases (law), you have to understand the part cases (law).

How could one possibly teach law without reading the law? How could one possibly learn it?

Damon Katz
11.13.2007 12:57pm
fdl (mail):
Actually, Damon, more often than not, the law *is* statutes, and administrative regulations.
Your claim that "to understand the implications of present cases (law) you have to understand the part [sic] cases (law)" is not really true.
Most law students I knew agreed that the case method was overrated. You can study black letter law without it, and you can then study how it is interpretated through cases, rather than starting with the cases and endeavoring to find the law in the midst of lots of unnecessary dicta.
And frankly, many of the law students who did the best in class used commercial outlines. That answers your question, "How could one possibly learn it?"
11.13.2007 1:27pm
OrinKerr:
Damon,

Obviously law should be taught by logical deduction from first principles. After all, that's how judges decide cases, right?

Orin
11.13.2007 1:30pm
fdl (mail):
As a follow-up, let me state the obvious: Most law students take BarBri for preparing for their state bar exam. There they learn the law, without any theorizing. They are given an outline and a lecture, and the law is simply stated. Again and again I heard the comment made, "If only I had known this first year, my grades would have been different." BarBri strips away unnecessary details and theorizing, and tells you what the law actually is, both at the federal and state levels. It's a lot of information, and it can be very complex, but it is also much more straightforward than you are led to believe through the case method.
Many students were frustrated, having gone through three years of law school, and then attending a BarBri lecture where the law was spelled out for them. No doubt there's benefit to working it through for yourself, but the case method is unnecessarily confusing.
11.13.2007 1:37pm
fdl (mail):
Suggestion for Orin:
Orin, since you dropped by, could I make it a suggestion that you write a blog post about this? That is, is the casebook method outdated, obsolete, etc.? Or is it still the best method for teaching law students the law? Could you open up a comment thread for law profs, lawyers, and law students to discuss the case method and consider its value?
Just a suggestion, but I think it would lead to an interesting discussion. I'm also curious to know how many lawyers believe that commercial outlines (which are usually discouraged by professors) were instrumental in achieving a good GPA. But that might be a different discussion.
11.13.2007 2:41pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
I thought Kingsfield was based on Professor Richard R. Powell of Columbia Law School. He taught at Hastings for about twenty years in its Over-65 club after retiring from Columbia. Hastings quickly found that he should not teach property law to first-year students because they kept puking at their desks.

Powell became a Hastings institution and rite of passage. You weren't a real Hastings student unless you had taken his course on Deeds, Trusts, Wills and Estates. I had him in his next-to-last year and he was still sharp as a tack.
11.13.2007 2:45pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
I have long been under the impression that Kingsfield was based on Lon Fuller. I don't know where I got that idea, but it surely came from someone else who believed the same thing. If Prof. Zywicki and I are both mistaken, at least the mistake has a long pedigree.
11.13.2007 3:07pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As a follow-up, let me state the obvious: Most law students take BarBri for preparing for their state bar exam. There they learn the law, without any theorizing. They are given an outline and a lecture, and the law is simply stated. Again and again I heard the comment made, "If only I had known this first year, my grades would have been different." BarBri strips away unnecessary details and theorizing, and tells you what the law actually is, both at the federal and state levels.
Well, that's great, but it carries with it the implicit assumption -- explicitly rejected by most law schools -- that law school is just an extended bar review class.


And let me say that anybody whose grades would have been different in law school if he had taken bar review is doubly stupid, both for not learning law in law school and for not even being smart enough to pick up a commercial outline to assist him in studying for law school exams.
11.13.2007 4:05pm
well... (mail):
David, not everyone can afford commercial outlines for their classes. Some of us could barely afford the casebooks. And law school wasn't exactly brimming over with extra time. There was barely enough time to read all the assignments. To supplement the reading with commercial outlines just wasn't that easy (for me at least).
I think what the commenters above are pointing to is that a BarBri lecture makes things much more clear and simple, and their outlines are excellent. Quite often the casebooks and the lectures in law school obfuscate the main issues.
11.13.2007 4:11pm
EI:
Stern Vern Countryman
11.13.2007 4:18pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Of course, obfuscation is one of the advocate's most important tools, isn't it?

Those of us who try cases for a living eventually understand that all of those cases we read have a winner and a loser. The loser is not necessarily the obfuscator.

What is one to do if the other side won't settler and obfuscation is the only tool left? Surrender?
11.13.2007 4:27pm
TaxLawyer:
FDL writes:

I question it's (sic) value. (But I don't have time to answer the obvious question, what would you do in its place.)


I emphasize over and over to my students that if law were just a collection of rules to memorize and apply, it wouldn't pay so well, and it wouldn't take 3 years of training to become a lawyer.

Law in real life is always about the application of rules to facts, so knowing the "rules" is only halfway -- and in truth, not even halfway -- to knowing the law.

The funny thing about rules is that they have a tendency to change -- not from case to case, or even from year to year, but certainly over 5 years, ten years, the course of a lawyer's career.

Understanding how it changes, and understanding how to work your facts with the law, is where the art of lawyering lies.

A short-sighted "just the rules ma'am" approach to legal education is a recipe for professional mediocrity.
11.13.2007 4:27pm
Damon:
FDL-

[Sorry for the typo.] I guess we're really discussing different kinds of thinking. Reading cases and discussing theories tends to make for a different kind of lawyer and thinker than merely memorizing a bar review book. Is this the difference between the trade schools -where you actually learn how to practice law- and theory schools -where you learn how to think about law? They turn out different lawyers. Regardless, I understood you to be arguing for the reading of exactly no old cases. I now see you are not.

Orin-

I almost spit my coffee. So cynical. I am confident there is some minority of jurists who try to decide cases that way. On the other hand, I don't think the rest of them spend much time consulting commercial outlines for the black letter law.

DK
11.13.2007 4:46pm
not a tax lawyer (mail):
A short-sighted "just the rules ma'am" approach to legal education is a recipe for professional mediocrity.

Whew! What a relief we have the casebook method, and thus there is so little professional mediocrity!
Most lawyers I know consider law school to be very poor preparation for the real world of legal practice.
11.13.2007 4:50pm
Fordham Law Review (mail) (www):
For those of you who would like to read the article by Scott D. Gerber (Corbin and Fuller's Cases on Contracts (1942?): The Casebook that Never Was), which appeared in Vol. 72 of the Fordham Law Review, please follow the link below.

11.13.2007 4:55pm
Fordham Law Review (mail) (www):
The link did not come through in the last post; here it is again.

http://law.fordham.edu/ihtml/page1.ihtml?imac=883 (click on "Search Articles"; search for "Gerber").
11.13.2007 4:59pm
Brice Timmons (mail) (www):
I am student at one of those "trade schools" famed in its region for turning out good trial lawyers and not a lot of theorists. I have yet to see any kind of black letter law taught in class, the sole exception being Jesse Dukeminier's casebook on property law which does explain Rule Against Perpetuities, Rule in Shelley's Case, and other rules of that sort with more explanation than case law. Frankly, I find that my fellow students who rely on commercial outlines and BARBRI materials often spend more time studying to have a much poorer grasp of the material than those of us who focus on the casebook. Worst, they always seek to find the "right" answer based on the principles they know and rarely seek to make arguments on both sides. If that becomes their method in practice then I imagine they will have to turn away an awful lot of clients.
11.13.2007 5:11pm
Brice Timmons (mail) (www):
Orin

Was that comment tongue-in-cheek?
11.13.2007 5:15pm
David A. Reif (mail):
My understanding had always been that it was "Black Jack" Dawson, who taught first year contracts at Harvard in the late 60s.
11.13.2007 5:25pm
Damon:
Brice -

I meant no disparagement. The best "trade school" in my state puts more people on the bench than any other save, perhaps, Harvard. There's a lot to be said for learning how actually to be a lawyer.

DK
11.13.2007 5:29pm
Brice Timmons (mail) (www):
Didn't take it that way. I was just pointing out that "trade schools" still teach case law over black letter. My school has a 98.6% average bar passage rate and 98% 9 mo. employment rate. I'm quite comfortable with my choice of school. What I was actually suggesting is that "trade schools" produce lawyers and judges over law professors and Ph.D. candidates. (Though I think I'll probably be pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy myself.)
11.13.2007 5:57pm
Zywicki (mail):
Thanks Fordham Law Review--when I looked earlier I could only get the Abstract, so thanks for posting the whole article!
11.13.2007 5:59pm
Pluribus (mail):
On my first day in law school, we had read five cases. The first question the professor asked was, "What was the fatal flaw in Justice Holmes's reasoning in X case?" I was a little flabbergasted, as (a) I hadn't suspected there was a fatal flaw in the reasoning of so eminent a jurist, (b) as a beginning law student I didn't know why I should be expected to identify such a flaw, if there was one, and (c) I wondered why we were spending so much time and effort to to read opinions in which there were fatal flaws. After I began to practice law, I learned that, when you have a research problem, you start with the statutes, then go to the regulations (if any), and if you have a problem of interpretation, you look at the cases, if there are any. And you avoid cases with fatal flaws in their reasoning.
11.13.2007 6:55pm
Brice Timmons (mail) (www):
I'm confused as to why one would look at the case law only "if" there was a problem with interpretation. What if the statute had been partially overturned? What if there was point that seemed clear to you that didn't to a state appellate justice? It seems like not going to the case law would be malpractice. Am I misunderstanding what you mean?
11.13.2007 10:20pm
Pluribus (mail):
Brice Timmons wrote:

I'm confused as to why one would look at the case law only "if" there was a problem with interpretation. What if the statute had been partially overturned? . . . It seems like not going to the case law would be malpractice.

Don't be so quick to think malpractice. I looked at my post again and couldn't find the "only" you refer to. The annotated statutes will tell you if the statute has been overturned. This doesn't happen very often in real life, but if it has, by all means read the case and try to figure out if there is a fatal flaw in its reasoning.
11.14.2007 8:59am
KLaw (mail):
The Dawson/Harvey/Henderson contracts casebook still begins with remedies and the Hairy Hand case and is still in use at Prof. Zywicki's alma mater, where Prof. Henderson retired just a couple years ago.

Prof. Zywicki, care to post on Jay Schalin's (unintentionally unflattering to you, in my opinion) "Storming the Academic Fortress" in today's Leland [N.C.] Tribune?
11.14.2007 1:48pm
Brice Timmons (mail) (www):
Pluribus:

Don't be so quick to think malpractice. I looked at my post again and couldn't find the "only" you refer to. The annotated statutes will tell you if the statute has been overturned. This doesn't happen very often in real life, but if it has, by all means read the case and try to figure out if there is a fatal flaw in its reasoning.

I think I misunderstood your point. Apologies.
11.14.2007 2:44pm
Kate S (mail):
My nomination for a Kingsfield model has to go to Professor Joseph H. Koffler, New York Law School. He was a 1948 Harvard grad who wrote the Handbook of Common Law Pleading. We were all scared spitless of him in 79. K
11.14.2007 3:48pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Many students were frustrated, having gone through three years of law school, and then attending a BarBri lecture where the law was spelled out for them.

It took 3 years to figure this out? I had it figured out the first semester.
11.14.2007 7:24pm