Our Law-in-Action Tradition

The hallmark of University of Wisconsin Law School is its "law in action" approach to teaching, in which students learn not only legal rules, but also why those rules evolved to address social concerns, and how those rules operate in the real world. That's what makes Wisconsin a different kind of law school.

Every law school, Wisconsin included, will teach you the rules. Rules laid down in statutes and regulations. Rules announced by state and federal judges in their appellate decisions.

Knowing the rules is like learning to play scales when you study a musical instrument. Playing scales is essential, but it isn't music. And knowing the rules is essential, but it isn't being a lawyer.

In just a few short years, you may well be sitting in an office when a client comes in with a problem.  Your client wants you to solve the problem. Knowing the rules won't always do this. Sometimes your client needs to maintain cordial relations because next year there will be another deal to be made. Sometimes your client is worried that exercising legal rights will incur informal penalties, such as being denied promotions in the future, or getting a bad reputation in the field. Solving a problem requires looking beyond the rules and into the entire set of relationships surrounding the dispute.

Wisconsin is proud of its long tradition of teaching the "law in action." This means asking how people and companies and governments actually interact, and how the rules are part – but only part – of the influence on their actions. It means studying with professors whose own work examines the role of law in the world, the "law and society" school of research. And it means teaching you how to think about all these parts of the puzzle.

Here are just a few examples:

Wisconsin isn't the only school that offers courses featuring a broader, more socially aware view of law. But it is the only school whose hallmark is the law-in-action approach to teaching. That's what makes Wisconsin a different kind of law school. That's why Wisconsin will make you a different – and better – kind of lawyer.

Law-in-Action:  The Dean's View

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