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Publication Information

32 J. Legal Education 127 (1982)


The Baltimore lawyer and teacher David Hoffman (1784-1854), the father of American legal ethics, was also the first of the systematic American legal educators. He held one of the first appointments in this country as a university law professor (at the University of Maryland, 1814-43) and wrote the first American outline of the study of law. Joseph Story, in a contemporary review of the 1817 Course, called Hoffman's work "an honour to our country[,] . . . by far the most perfect system for the study of the law that has ever been offered to the public. " Chancellor James Kent said, "whoever follows its directions will be a well read and accomplished lawyer."

Most of his law lectures, as distinguished from his Course, were not written. A few of his introductory discourses do survive in printed form—probably transcribed after they had been delivered—and there are newspaper reviews of two of them. The best evidence of Hoffman's theory of the law lecture is to be found in his analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of his own work.


Reprinted with permission of Journal of Legal Education.



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