Holmes and Jobs: Lessons for and about Charlotte School of Law

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. noted that “[t]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919)(Holmes, J., dissenting). Coupled with his observation “that time has upset many fighting faiths,” Justice Holmes illuminated the path that new ideas typically must travel as they vie for acceptance and predominance. Implicit in this premise is the understanding that the viability and utility of an idea are measured not by the moment but over the course of time.

Charlotte School of Law, in the most fundamental sense, is an idea. It is an idea whose time came because of legal education’s slow response to the dramatic changes that are transforming the legal profession. The model for what became Charlotte School of Law was conceptualized and developed by legal educators who have responded to the legal profession’s plea for law schools to become more closely aligned with the new realities of law practice. What has emerged is an institution more centered on facilitating student success, enabling professional readiness, and providing opportunities for qualified students who too often have been denied opportunity due to a perverse obsession with an increasingly outmoded ranking system. Our mission has attracted the support and engagement of recognized leaders in legal education and the legal profession.

Professor Bill Henderson (recognized by National Jurist as the second most influential person in legal education) has observed that, as most law schools struggle to adapt to new market realities, leadership in legal education is “up for grabs.” Schools that best adapt invariably will capture the mantle of leadership for the 21st Century (which, incidentally, is our mission). Noting that new leadership in legal education will emerge within the next two decades, Professor Henderson has characterized us as “people who could make a difference.”

As we pursue our mission of leadership through change, it is worth recalling Steve Jobs’ observation that “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Our objective is to change not the entire world but the world of legal education. The path for change leadership is not a straight line or without its speed bumps or setbacks. New ideas also encounter resistance and detractors. The reason that our “idea” ultimately will prevail in the “competition of the market” is because it represents what the market itself has been demanding. As judgment becomes increasingly informed about us, and so long as we maintain the courage of our convictions and commitment to continuous improvement, some of today’s “fighting faiths” will become unsettled. It will be these developments over the course of time, as opposed to any given moment, that establish our leadership and consequent appreciation in the value of the education we provide.

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