The Anatomy of a Leading Case: Lawrence v. Fox in the Courts, the Casebooks, and the Commentaries

In spite of the wide diversity of training, practice, and location of lawyers throughout the United States, virtually all share one experience: the standard core curriculum of the first year of law school taught by the case method. The extent to which that experience in parsing cases in contracts, torts, and property shapes the American legal mentality is open to debate, but it undeniably has an impact. The first-year experience socializes law students in the culture of the law. During this period, students learn the language of the law and the ways that lawyers think. During this period, too, students absorb certain basic notions about legal analysis and the shape of the legal system, and begin to view the world as common lawyers. Included among these basic notions, the “conventional wisdom” of basic law training, is the concept of the “leading case.” This Article explores the notion of the leading case, and places the concept in an historical and jurisprudential framework.