Academic journal article Nottingham Law Journal

Global Challenges for Legal Education: Competing for the World's Law Students

Academic journal article Nottingham Law Journal

Global Challenges for Legal Education: Competing for the World's Law Students

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In all parts of the world, legal education is under critical scrutiny as never before. In the US it is facing meltdown, in the UK it is under extensive review by the regulators, and elsewhere there are sustained moves to overthrow conventional wisdom and adopt more-practice-oriented modes of legal education in the face of declining job markets in law. Yet new law schools are opening in many countries such as France, India, China, Australia, and more. We can add to this the growing transnational legal education sector, which is pushing the online and offshore agendas for legal education providers. What is causing legal education to be so enmeshed in contradiction?

In this article I suggest that legal education has always occupied an uneasy position between the theoretical and the vocational. It is redolent in some ways of Twining's personification of legal education as Pericles versus the plumber. (1) While this posits the extremes, the situation is more complex and subtle than that. The pressures on legal education are both endogenous and exogenous. On the one hand the academy is trying to justify a model that it has used for a number of years--indeed since the 19th century--and is comfortable with, while on the other the economy is exerting huge pressures on legal services such that law jobs are no longer as plentiful as they were. (2) Yet in many countries law is still considered an elite occupation carrying status and offering possibilities of wealth. (3)

Various reports and analyses have suggested change. Among them are the Carnegie report, (4) the Legal Education and Training Review report, (5) and the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education Task Force report. (6) None has yet provided a solution that commands wide enthusiasm from either the academy or the profession. The question "what is the purpose of legal education?" remains unanswered. For many in UK style regimes legal education is presumed to have elements of liberal education within it. (7) Proponents of US style legal education view legal education as more practice-oriented. (8) There is, however, a substantial portion of the world that has a more pragmatic attitude to legal education, combining elements of the UK and US approaches with local demands. For example, many countries in southeast Asia and elsewhere are grappling with the form and meaning of legal education: should it include clinical legal education, ethics, or how doctrinal should it be? Will it prepare sufficient numbers for the legal profession and market? (9) One Indonesian viewpoint says students are alienated by "Eurocentric" methods of lecturing and are bored because course materials are foreign to them difficult to relate to. (10) Malaysian academics have decried the oversupply of black letter law at the expense of experiential learning. (11) There is a growing body of scholarship that recognizes clinical legal education is sought after by students as a way of obtaining lawyers' skills and escaping the doctrinal grip on law. (12) But as Rosenbaum records, "Change can be impeded by layers of bureaucratic oversight and lack of local autonomy, even at the level of law school departments or individual teaching staff". (13) Research in other fields, such as computing, have found that transnational education (TNE) benefits from, for example, project-based, group work even in the face of perceived cultural barriers. (14) However, it is accepted that research in this area is sparse and ethnocentrism remains a constant threat. (15) There are hybrids in between and all agree that one significant outcome of legal education is the production of lawyers.

There are three main challenges for legal education: globalization, technology, and regulation. (16) The academy is only beginning to get to grips with these and although the profession is slightly more advanced it finds itself resisting some changes, especially on the regulatory front. The one apparent effect of these changes and challenges is that they are promoting the reprofessionalization and deprofessionalization of law and its attendant careers. …

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