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Legal Education Digest

Legal Education Digest
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Barker, D --- "From the Editor" [2007] LegEdDig 1; (2007) 15(1) Legal Education Digest 3

From the Editor

Professor David Barker AM

[2007] LegEdDig 1; (2007) 15(1) Legal Education Digest 3

The adaptation of a wider, global theme for the inclusion of articles on legal education, as commenced in the previous Digest, has been continued in this Edition with fifteen of the nineteen articles focusing on jurisdictions outside Australia.

There has been an attempt to make the digested articles easier to access with the main subheadings being incorporated into a contents page at the front of the Digest.

There is also a book review; Hutchinson’s ‘Researching and Writing in Law’. Books for review should be sent to the editor at the address listed on the back cover.

With regard to the articles themselves, under Clinical Legal Education, Geraghty argues that two objectives can be achieved. These are the provision of legal services to the poor and balancing the provision of services with appropriate opportunities for reflection on lawyering experiences. He also argues that these objectives can be fulfilled through the creation and maintenance of a clinical program that is focused on enhancing the quality of justice systems. Such programs have the best potential for teaching justice. Rand notes that the attainment of social justice is not simply achieved via the provision of legal services for the poor. It is essential that students are taught a model by which they can practice law in a manner that brings social justice into their practice. Rand’s article is based upon two premises. Firstly, if law schools want their graduates to participate in legal work which promotes social justice, they must inculcate a concept of social justice that is strongly held and operational. Secondly, law schools have much to learn from the pedagogies of other disciplines as to how to teach this to students.

Clinical Legal Education is followed by Continuing Education with a thoughtful exposition by Conison on continuing legal education, a topic of which she admits ‘does not lend itself to grand theory’. Conison espouses four principles which have motivated CLE. Firstly, that law school is inherently incomplete. Secondly, law changes. Thirdly, the focus of an individual’s practice may alter and fourthly, the need for public confidence.

Under Curriculum, there is a questioning by Schulze regarding the focus of law schools on the teaching of litigation when research indicates that this is one of the least favoured of occupations by lawyers in practice. Schulze queries whether there is any justification for the inclusion of transactional drafting instruction within the mandatory Legal Research and Writing curriculum. In his conclusion Schulze notes that the expansion of law schools’ writing curricula will adequately prepare students for the workforce and will counter complaints from legal employers that new lawyers lack basic writing skills.

Legal Ethics features an article on an innovative program for the teaching of ethics in Ontario with a new approach adopted by Pitel. His conclusion is that whilst the teaching of ethics should not be left wholly to the legal profession, it nevertheless has to shoulder some of the burden. Also under this subject heading, Bagley et al discuss the teaching of ethics to business students, emphasising the need for teaching materials to be expressly designed to highlight the positive associations or linkages between law, business and ethics.

Legal Education Generally incorporates four articles covering a varied cross-section of jurisdictions across the world. Foote examines the reform of legal training in Japan. Recently, Japan has implemented the most fundamental reforms to legal training in over half a century. Foote analyses the advantages and disadvantages associated with Japan’s recent reform and concludes that the experience of the first year of the new system give reason to be optimistic. The quality and quantity of the Japanese legal profession has been heightened by the reforms. Azam discusses legal training reform in Bangladesh. The legal system there has been called upon to develop strategies which will compel the government to abide by the social justice mandate contained in the Constitution and to assist in the promotion of human rights for the underprivileged section of society. Siegel reports on the tasks facing the hybrid lawyer in Italy. Fundamental changes have occurred in the Italian legal system. Constitutional amendment and statutory change has moved Italy from an inquisitorial system to a mixed system that is the most adversarial in Europe. Given such changes, Siegel examines the ways in which Italian legal education should respond. Sheldon and Krieger deal with an entirely different topic; that of determining the negative effects of legal education on students. Using recent longitudinal studies, the authors confirm previous findings of emotional distress among law students. Surprisingly, Sheldon and Krieger have demonstrated that law students experience precipitous declines in their mental health during their first year.

Under Legal Profession, James and Finlay-Jones examine the impact of pressures on lawyers. Research indicates that whilst many lawyers are prone to poor physical health and significant levels of mental illness, processes can be introduced to improve their workplace satisfaction. The authors argue that by taking theories such as emotional intelligence seriously and allowing such theories to inform, clinical teaching practices would be a starting point in helping to identify the risk factors.

On the topic of Practical Training, Schrup discusses the importance of collaboration across the law school curriculum and the integration of legal research, legal writing and clinical programs. The article argues that collaboration between clinics and legal writing departments not only furthers the goals of the McCrate Report but can also lead to benefits for law students.

Under Skills, McCarthy describes the techniques used in training advocacy for students at the Queensland University of Technology under the evocative title of ‘water-walkers’. In particular, this case study showing how the work in speech communication is incorporated into the Moot unit at Queensland University of Technology is used to build a bridge to communicative confidence and overcome the performance apprehension which is often associated with the ‘Socratic Method’,

The theme of teaching methods is continued under Students, with a controversial article by Taylor challenging the ‘step-by-step’ method adopted by some German law schools. Taylor argues that this method involves a considerable waste of time and ink. ‘Struggle’ is the opening description adopted by Fitzsimmons et al to focus on the success of the law peer tutor program at the University of New South Wales in overcoming some of the problems faced by first year students within the University’s law school. The authors note that struggle is the common experience of first year law students. The University of New South Wales draws on the theory of Paulo Freire’s dialogical approach to learning. The significance of this theory lies in its rejection of the more traditional notions that students as learners are empty vessels to be filled by the knower. The Law Peer Tutors adopt Freire’s notion that they must act with the younger students, rather than on behalf of them.

The final segment, Teaching Methods & Media, examines an innovative teaching method for criminal law introduced in Canada. Hermida notes that while the revolution in media and global communications of the last few decades has transformed the basic foundations of knowledge and education, Canadian law schools are yet to open their doors to audiovisual teaching methodologies and media literacy. Meredith gives a detailed description of a case study concerning the Legal Research Skills Programme adopted in the Oxford University Law Faculty. The compulsory three unit programme provides training in the use of legal information resources, legal research, and teamworking. Price questions the effect of some popular first year textbooks on legal writing. He argues that teachers of legal writing should avoid relying on the over-generalisations commonly found in legal texts.

The conclusion a reader of the Digest would reach at the end of this edition is that whatever the criticism of current legal education, the word ‘complacency’ would not be included in such a description. The nineteen articles digested are evidence of legal educators striving to achieve excellence in their teaching whilst at the same time endeavouring to ensure that their students are prepared for the rigours of practice on being admitted into the legal profession.

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