The rise of the academic doctorate in law (a degree most U.S. scholars have either ignored or deprecated) is an important chapter in the story of law’s coming of age as an academic discipline in the first half of the 20th century. Drawing in part on continental European models, the architects of the degree shaped it into a vehicle for training a new class of law teachers, producing research into the nature and functioning of the legal system, and spreading emerging conceptions of law to a broader national audience. Notable among these conceptions were the “sociological jurisprudence” of Harvard’s Roscoe Pound and the Legal Realism of Columbia and Yale. This “missionary” function, however, was in tension with the implication of advanced scholarly work inherent in the degree’s name, and ultimately helped set the stage for the doctorate’s decline after World War II. While today it is much more common for U.S. law teachers to have pursued doctoral study in a discipline other than law, a U.S. doctorate in law is an increasingly attractive credential for foreign-trained lawyers who hope to teach in their home countries. This article is the first installment of a larger study that traces how U.S. legal education borrowed practices from overseas to create the degree, digested and modified them to suit the needs of a rapidly evolving legal system, then redirected the flow of ideas elsewhere. As such, the study is a story of the coming of age of U.S. legal education not just at home, but on a world stage
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