Law in Context: Enlarging a Discipline

Law in Context: Enlarging a Discipline

Law in Context: Enlarging a Discipline

Law in Context: Enlarging a Discipline


The central theme of Twining's book is that law is a marvellous subject of study, but to do justice to its potential requires an enlargement of vision, multiple perspectives, and a radical reappraisal of the role, culture, and practices of law schools. Treating theory, education, scholarship, publishing, and professional practice as complementary activities, the author explores the history, philosophy, and practical problems of attempts to broaden the study of law in a disciplined way. He draws upon his personal experience of law schools throughout the common law world and his special knowledge of jurisprudence, evidence,torts and legal method to examine a wide range of topics in depth. These include, for example, the nature and tasks of legal theory, different kinds of legal literature, and access to legal education and the profession. This provocative and readable book will appeal to all those with an interest in the roles of legal theory, law schools, and lawyers in a changing world.


Eventually the Oldest Member spoke up: 'All of your arguments are fallacious. It is important that we should not do the right deed for the wrong reason. Therefore let us consult some experts.' His colleagues disliked his premise, but liked his conclusion. So they decided to invite two teachers of jurisprudence of seemingly divergent views to justify their way of life. To the surprise of all, including the authors, they produced an almost unanimous report, from which the following extracts are taken:

The question put to us was: 'Should we continue to have a compulsory course on jurisprudence in our curriculum?' We suggest that it is appropriate to restate the issue as follows: 'What learning objectives might be served by making the direct study of legal theory an integral part of an undergraduate degree programme in law?' There are two different kinds of reasons for this reformulation. First, the issue is posed in general terms, because any specific decisions on a particular curriculum inevitably involve local factors such as the interests (vested and intellectual), expertise, personalities, and prejudices of the existing faculty and the educational background, attitudes, and predominant motives of its students. Specific decisions about whether, when, how much, and how legal theory should be directly studied have to be made in a particular context. Our task is to intellectualize the issue; it is for the locals to contextualize it.

Secondly, this kind of educational question deserves to be framed with a reasonable degree of precision. Our formulation is preferred for the following reasons: an educational question of this kind is better expressed in terms of learning objectives rather than courses and teaching; similarly 'programme' is preferred to 'curriculum' because the latter too often tends to be conceived largely in terms of coverage of particular subject-matters by teachers rather than in terms of a programme of study directed to a range of learning objectives. 'Direct study' is contrasted with incidental or pervasive or pick-it-up approaches in which the objectives or subject-matters in question are not the primary focus of attention: for example, when 'legal method' is left to be picked up or mastered while studying courses on torts or contracts or revenue law. Our phrasing also leaves open for consideration the question whether the relevant learning objectives should be pursued mainly or exclusively in a single course.

The phrase 'integral part' is less emotive than 'compulsory'. Both of us favour educational programmes that give wide scope to students to choose to pursue a range of objectives by diverse means in respect of a variety of subject- matters; but we also believe that, in first degrees in law, such choices are usually best made within a coherent structure with sufficient common ground as to objectives, subject-matter, and methods to allow for integration of different parts of the programme, for sequencing of study, and for a reasonably coherent and . . .

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