SMU Law Review Forum

SMU Law Review Forum


This Article examines why and how critical race theory (CRT) should be taught as a mandatory component of the first-year law school curriculum. Learning the fundamentals of critical race theory is not only important to empathetically understand and serve those around you, but necessary to understand the law as it is. The law’s past and future require this. This Article first makes the positive argument for critical race theory’s necessity in legal education, showing that it rises above normative (albeit virtuous) justifications. It then briefly summarizes what critical race theory is by outlining its central tenets, as well as what critical race theory is not by examining the recent uproar surrounding the CRT boogeyman.

Part II explores why and how critical race theory can be taught in two doctrinal first-year courses: constitutional law and civil procedure. The courses show how easily critical race theory’s tenets slot into commonly taught cases, before even considering adding new material to course requirements. Constitutional law demonstrates how interest convergence and the social construction of race play a role in the law, while civil procedure demonstrates how intersectionality and counter-storytelling can recontextualize how we view a court’s ruling.

Part III prescribes actionable solutions. The first solutions include discretionary implementation of critical race theory into syllabi by professors. It suggests more concrete solutions in the form of mandatory curriculum requirements, changes to ABA accreditation standards, and changes in NCBE Bar Exam requirements. It then surveys some existing courses to examine how such requirements can be implemented. Finally, the appendices outline the wealth of existing CRT scholarship relating to the first-year courses for reference.

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