Speed and power

Steve Kragthorpe Cardinal football

Download the August 29, 2008, edition of The Docket Passer . Or simply mash the "play" button above.

Welcome to the 2008-09 football season and a new set of podcasts from The Docket Passer.

I'm Jim Chen, law school dean at the University of Louisville and a proud member of the Cardinal Nation. My Docket Passer feature brings you thoughts about UofL football, the study of law, and practically anything else that helps connect those things with each other.

This year's opener pits the Cardinals against the University of Kentucky Wildcats. It's time to get down to fundamentals.

One of the deepest sources of football's appeal is the fact that every body type, every source of athletic talent, has the potential to find its appropriate place on a football team. The same is true of football's closest athletic relatives. Football, soccer, and rugby inspire fanatic followers because every village in the world can field a team. There is a place for the speedy and a place for the beefy.

Speed and power. These are the basic elements of sport. Football simply happens to combine speed and power in an exceptionally beautiful way.

Law, as it turns out, offers all sorts of variations on this theme of speed versus power. Classroom instruction in law emphasizes analytical skill and doctrinal mastery. The Socratic method and the Langdellian curriculum have dominated American legal education for more than a century.

More recently, though, legal educators have begun stressing a different set of skills. Some skills, crucial precisely because they are basic, cannot be taught in an ordinary classroom. Writing. Public speaking. Counseling. Problem-solving. Entrepreneurship and common business sense. Oral advocacy that is as exuberant as it is extemporaneous.

These are the reasons why our Law School, here at the University of Louisville, has put so much emphasis on courses and programs that take legal education out of its traditional classroom setting and seek to teach students the full set of skills they'll need to succeed as the lawyers of the future. Basic legal skills. Professionalism. Moot court teams that win national championships. The new University of Louisville Law Clinic.

All sports, especially football, depend on the right combination of speed and power. Legal education, for its part, depends on the right combination of theory and practice. Analysis and action. Thinking and doing.

And what about that game this Sunday, August 31, between the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats? What should we Louisville fans look for? Speed or power? To me, the answer is obvious.