Save the Constitution, the United States’s most famous legal export may well be the case method. This paper pieces together the story of how C.C. Langdell’s brainchild was brought to Canada, Québec and the rest of the common law world in treading the momentous events and geopolitics of the last century and a half, and reflects on the lessons from this global experiment for the present and future of the case method. As with law itself, the teaching of law is inextricably tied to local contexts and world politics, thus making the future of the case method as difficult to predict as it would have been for Langdell and his contemporaries. Today’s different national and international contexts from that of 1945 could represent an opportunity to reassess the merits of the case method in our more mature legal and educational environments, freed from colonial and neocolonial agendas.
Han-Ru Zhou is an Associate Professor of Law at the Université de Montréal and a visiting scholar at the uOttawa Public Law Centre. He is a past Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa, Sproul Research Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley and Boulton Fellow at McGill University. Han-Ru received his legal education at Montréal, Harvard and Oxford and served as a law clerk to Justice Marie Deschamps at the Supreme Court of Canada. He also trained as a classical pianist at the Conservatory of Music of Montreal. Professor Zhou teaches and researches in constitutional law, comparative law and legal theory. He is the Co-Editor in Chief of the Review of Constitutional Studies and the author of the only Canadian casebook published in English and French: Constitutional Law: Fundamental Principles (Thémis 2021, 1,164 p., translated from Droit constitutionnel: principes fondamentaux).