If you are visiting this blog, the chances are that legal education is a topic of interest for you. It certainly is for me, and the past few months have allowed me to read about some of the more innovative changes that are taking place in the world of legal education.

At some point in my research, and I am guessing this will be the case for others as well, I chanced upon the writings of one Professor John Flood. A Professor of Law at Griffith University, John Flood has written extensively on the changing nature of the legal profession, amongst other things. But that is not all. Listen to this episode of the Happy Lawyer to get a glimpse of his career. Also, visit his SSRN page where you can find, inter alia, his book on barrister’s clerks in the UK.

Anyway, what I found particularly intriguing about him was his thoughts on legal education, and what the future holds. Which is why I am quite excited to introduce the “Fortnightly with John Flood” (FwF) series where the professor answers a question or two on legal education.

Enough digressing, here is the first FwF:

What do you think the purpose of legal education ought to be?

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Prof. John Flood

I think the answer depends on what you want legal education to achieve. Some people will insist it should be practical and vocational in nature. Perhaps if it’s an emerging economy with a great need for lawyers to handle business and emerging human rights, then creating a vocational attitude might be the way to go.

However, in both business and human rights I would like lawyers to be aware of the deeper issues that can arise. Should business be purely free market with no concern for the neighbourhood effects (externalities) which might consist of poor environmental regulation or poor labour laws regulating conditions of work?

The American approach is to consider law one of the professional schools along with medicine, business and journalism. But their approach is predicated on the fact that professional students will have done a liberal arts degree before taking a professional degree.

In many other countries like the UK or Germany law is a first degree therefore it is expected it will serve a double function of being a “liberal arts” degree along with professional training. This is not the best approach as it conflates practice and theory in ways which are antithetical. In such jurisdictions students taking law frequently resent having to take subjects like legal theory or jurisprudence later on in their degrees feeling they are a waste of time and a detraction from learning how to do “real law”.

In many other countries like the UK or Germany law is a first degree therefore it is expected it will serve a double function of being a “liberal arts” degree along with professional training. This is not the best approach as it conflates practice and theory in ways which are antithetical.

There is a tendency in many countries to follow the American style of legal education. Aside from the supposed practical aspects, American legal education has a scientific bent to it which is illustrated by the popularity and dominance of law and economics, something which isn’t found much elsewhere. These give law and legal education gravitas and status.

Law in many ways reflects what societies are like. It is a kind of social science, perhaps the first. So as societies change, so must law. And the biggest changes affecting society are those caused by automation and machine learning. Unfortunately legal education has taken very little account of these yet.

It will have to.

 

(Image taken from here)

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