“CLS” was an acronym with two very different meanings when I was a fledgling law student some thirty-five years ago. For most, it meant “critical legal studies,” a burgeoning new movement of sundry neo-Marxist jurists and philosophers collectively bent on exposing the fallacies and false equalities of modern law. Many of my first-year law professors were the high priests of this CLS movement. They were making serious waves at the time with their denunciation of much that was considered sound and settled in the law. The best CLS professors taught black letter doctrine—and then shredded it with rhetorical and analytical power. That instruction appealed to my native ethic of semper reformanda—always reforming and working to improve our traditions. Other professors simply taught their pet critical topics, sending us students scrambling to the bookstore in search of study guides that would acquaint us with the legal basics. After a year of such CLS instruction, I could not wait to take the upper-level electives that would no doubt unveil the new and better legal system CLS had in mind. Little was on offer. The “crits,” I soon learned, were better at deconstruction than reconstruction of the law. Not surprisingly, this movement has now faded and fractured into sundry special interest groups.
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