18. Skills Teaching in Legal Education-the Legal
Practice Course and Beyond PHILIP A. JONESIN September 1993 the Law Society's Legal
Practice Course will come into effect. In 1994 it will be followed by the Professional Skills Course and at the same time standards
will come into effect which define the kind of skills
that ought to be developed during the Training Contract. This completes a process of revision of professional legal training begun by the Bar which
introduced its own skills based professional training
course ( Law Society 1992, Sherr 1992).The introduction of the Legal Practice course presents clear opportunities for those prepared to take
them; an opportunity to seek a closer partnership
between the academic and the professional, and an
opportunity for both the College of Law and the University sector to develop new forms of professional
education. But it also presents threats: the emergence
of a skills-based professional stage could require a
greater focus on the acquisition of knowledge at the
academic stage, it could lead to an expansion of the
'core', and it could lead to an intrusion of professional and instrumental values into an already
threatened environment.This paper is in three parts. Part one and two consider the theoretical infrastructure that underpins
Legal Practice Courses throughout the commonwealth. The Legal Practice Courses do not provide a
simplistic focus on techniques and procedures, nor
do they operate with a simplistic gloss on human
behaviour. Both curriculum and pedagogy build
upon a sound foundation of research into professional practice and professional education. Part one
considers the different curriculum components, part
two looks at some of the teaching and learning methods that have been introduced. In part three there is
a consideration of the academic stage. This should
not provide direct tuition in lawyer's skills, it should
retain it's focus on personal and intellectual development and it should seek to develop a 'deep; understanding of law and practice. But, it is argued, this
traditional aim might be better realized through a
degree that provided a closer integration of theory,
practice and skill. Such an integration is provided
through programmes that integrate substantive law,
theoretical exploration and real or simulated practice, it is this possibility that is present in the new
exempting' degree; that intertwines the law degree
and the Legal Practice Course.
I. The curriculum defined in the Legal Practice
CoursesAll the Legal Practice courses share an orientation to
what lawyers 'do' but each has relatively distinct
conceptions of what it is that lawyers do. These conceptions are articulated through the specification of
curriculum elements in the form of fairly precise
learning objectives. Four different curriculum elements can be distinguished:
|(ii) lawyer's skills|
|(iii) professional practice skills, and|
|(iv) problem solving|
The focus here is at the lowest level of abstraction
on the most tangible aspects of a lawyers performance, the capacity to perform certain tasks in the
context of a transaction of current matter'. Examples
from the Law Society standards would include
'investigating title', 'drafting a contract', 'preparing
the oath for executors', 'making or contesting a bail
application', the preparation and conduct of 'applications to the master or district judge'. Such processes may require skilled behaviour but they are
perceived as activities, procedures or tasks. They
represent a level of activity that is intrinsic to
lawyering behaviour and are defined in terms that
most lawyers would recognize.
A focus on transactions is a feature of the courses
developed in Australia which define the tasks
involved in each transaction in some detail. The Law
Society standards similarly define the core subject
areas in terms of tasks and transactions. They do not,
though, adopt a full-blooded transaction approach
but define the transactional context with some care.
many of the standards require the students to 'determine', 'decide'. 'identify the steps', or 'investigate'.
These clearly expect the student to be able to carry
out the steps that make up the transaction. At other
times, though, the phrasing is permissive. The student may be required to 'demonstrate an understanding' or 'appreriate the need' to 'advise', 'investigate'
etc. The wording is critical. The course is to be
informed by a 'transactional' approach. It is not to be
dominated by it.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Examining the Law Syllabus:The Core.
Contributors: P. B. H. Birks - Editor, Society of Public Teachers of Law (London, England) - OrganizationName.
Publisher: Oxford University.
Place of publication: Oxford.
Publication year: 1992.
Page number: 97.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may
not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.