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Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers

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October 19, 2016
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Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers. Given that most law graduates go on to practise as lawyers, it is all too easy for those in Government and in the professions to see the law school as a what we would call a 'trade' school, a pla...
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Guiding News proudly presents, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers. The latest Faculty of Law news headline highly recommended by Law School, Prince Law School and Mary Windsor the lovely school girl, with 131 hits. Publication Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 19:08:44, Update Time: Wed, October 19, 2016 19:15:58 GMT - within the Legal & Law category, the Boy Scouts section, from the Humanities & Social Sciences channel - Live Highlights Center, World News Press. If you have any idea or opinion, please feel free to shout out at the Great Chatroom

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Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers. Given that most law graduates go on to practise as lawyers, it is all too easy for those in Government and in the professions to see the law school as a what we would call a 'trade' school, a place in which the apprentices of a particular craft hone their practical skills.


Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers

Faculty of Law, University of Oxford: Legal Educator Have No Responsibility to Train Lawyers

It is important to emphasise this second role of the legal educator, given the topic of this forum. To encourage a student to weigh and to evaluate the law is not ultimately a destructive, task.  It is part of the role of the university law school in upholding the rule of law.  The more that lawyers are, from their first days at the law school, encouraged to propose ways in which the law could be better and more defensible, the stronger the respect for law in society at large will be.  As Professor Peter Birks of our Faculty has put it:

"...the law schools [must discharge] a public and constitutional function essential to a modern democracy. It is a law-making function, continually directed to the improvement of the law and to the underpinning of its authority or, perhaps the more suitable word in a modern society, its legitimacy. The law schools are the guardians of the law in the interest of the public." 

Of course, to discharge this function well, students may need to encounter material from other disciplines outside law as well.  A student who has a training in economics or moral philosophy may be able to ask more penetrating questions of the law than one who does not.  But even the student whose only discipline is law can work towards building a system that is as rational, as coherent and as justifiable as possible.  She can point to anomalies and inconsistencies in the law.  She can point to places in which it operates in a way that is arbitrary or unfair.  And the legal educator ought constantly to be encouraging her in that task. Indeed, this part of the task is where the work of the legal educator and that of the student come most closely into line. In her research, the jurist herself has a responsibility to maintain the legitimacy of the legal system of which she is part by ensuring that it is a defensible as possible and, as a legal educator, this is a task that she shares with her students and in which she encourages them.

Like the first one, this second role of the legal educator is under threat in many countries.  Given that most law graduates go on to practise as lawyers, it is all too easy for those in Government and in the professions to see the law school as a what we would call a 'trade' school, a place in which the apprentices of a particular craft hone their practical skills. In the United Kingdom, the law schools have been under increasing pressure to focus on material which the legal profession regards as useful for the day-to-day practice of law, rather than useful as a part of its critical evaluation.  For example, we have been required to demonstrate that our students can use a computer and that they can complete team-work exercises.  Some are keen that the law schools should teach practical skills such as legal drafting or advocacy.  But I believe that these are skills which are better taught by the professions and on  the job.  I believe that the law school which sees its role as the training of lawyers, except in the sense of training them to think deeply about the law, has lost its way.  The law school is a place to study, to examine, to criticise and to suggest reform to, the body of norms that constitute a given legal system.  To affirm that this is its function is not to decry the work of practising lawyers, it is to affirm that the law school has a peculiar and an important role in the shaping of the legal system.  As a senior British judge, Lord Goff of Chievely put it:

"If judge and jurist ... can understand and recognise each other's respective functions, if they can regard each other's work with mutual respect and each other's problems with mutual sympathy and understanding, then the future can be bright indeed."

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October 19, 2016

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