Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2022


Clinical Law Review





First Page


Last Page



As the key means of framing a case, case theory is the central problem that lawyers confront in constructing a case, and many of the decisions made during the life of a case are decisions that rest on case theory. Building on the author's earlier scholarship on case theory, this essay articulates a concept of case theory called "storyline," and sets out a framework for teaching this concept. The framework for this process has three basic stages - imagining case theory, evaluating (and constructing) case theory, and choosing case theory. The material for this process is stories, which are the starting point from which storylines can be distilled. The essay discusses some of the challenges in teaching case theory in the metaphor of stories, which include overcoming the doctrinal messages of legal education, conveying the complexity of the idea of story, and devising a curriculum beyond that available in lawyering texts. The article then demonstrates how to build a case theory curriculum from the ground up, using examples from film, fictional accounts of lawyering, newspaper articles about actual cases, stories written by clinical professors and others about their cases, and simulation. These materials allow students to learn case theory in increasingly complex settings, and to begin to confront the complex strategic and ethical questions of choice of case theory, whether in a clinical course, a simulation course or a traditional classroom. The article concludes that as students move along the spectrum from imagining to finally choosing case theory, actual cases and clients become much more important in the equation.



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