EDITOR'S PREFACE

THE debate about legal education in the twenty-first century has reached a critical point. The Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct has just completed a three-year inquiry into all aspects of the education of future practitioners. As this book goes to print, the publication of its final report is awaited. The months which follow will be crucial. The discussion of the LCACLEC's proposals will largely determine the shape of things for the foreseeable future. By the turn of the century we will know in concreto the structure of the new settlement, which, on past experience, will remain in place for some twenty-five years. Radical investigations cannot, in the nature of things, be repeated at any much greater frequency.

At the beginning of this century the common law had barely begun to acknowledge the existence, much less the importance, of jurists, and the notion that university law schools might be essential to the education of lawyers was still novel. Although it was already evident in the work of great legal scholars such as Anson, Dicey and Pollock, the new role of the professoriate in shaping the raw caselaw was destined to remain largely unrecognized for the best part of a century after it might first have been observed. Even now neither the image of the common law nor formal accounts of its operation have fully adjusted to the necessity of law schools and the law-making and law-shaping role of the juristic literature which flows from them. The Society of Public Teachers of Law is itself approaching its centenary. It was founded in 1908 by the fathers of the juristic profession in the common law, to be the learned society of university lawyers. A central aim from the beginning was the promotion of legal education. The Society's founders recognized that the educational traditions of the common law had already been overtaken by profound changes in the nature of the law and of the society which the law served. The great nineteenth century reforms of the system of judicature represented a delayed but decisive victory of reason over tradition. That victory meant that ever afterwards the law would have to answer to reason and would change in response to the dictates of reason. Already in the eighteenth century Blackstone, the first ever professor of the common law, had prophetically foreseen that the educational tradition which left the law to be picked up on the hoof could not survive. The practising lawyer who could merely do his job would be no more than a mechanic, useless in comparison with one endowed with the power of reasoning about the law and about its grounds and principles.

Ancient tradition and short-term interest, together with the mischance of poor leadership, have caused the professions repeatedly to oppose plans for greater investment in serious legal education. Sadly, and dangerously, of all the world's jurisdictions England and Wales is now in this respect bottom of the league. The LCACLEC report will offer an opportunity to put this right. The. SPTL plans to hold a number of events which will contribute to the debate with a view to ensuring that that opportunity is not missed. There have been missed opportunities before. In the period following the LCACLEC report, the Society will do all it can to prevent a recurrence of the disappointing sequel to the last great report on legal education. In 1971 the Ormrod report held out the prospect that virtually all lawyers would be law graduates and that our university law schools would be strengthened and their range broadened to include the hitherto very weak vocational phase. As doctors already came to practice through the great medical schools, so our lawyers would, as in all neighbouring jurisdictions, come to practice through these strengthened university law schools.

In Scotland the professions and the universities took the Ormrod message to heart, with the result that Scottish lawyers now receive a legal education not very dissimilar in breadth and depth to that followed all over continental Europe. Most lawyers north of the border follow a five-year programme, all of it in the university. The first four years lead to an LL.B. with honours, while the fifth prepares the new graduate for the Diploma in Legal Practice. By taking an ordinary rather than an honours law degree, the would-be practitioner can still cut the four years to three, and thus the five to four, but rather few choose to take the shorter road. In Germany, as Hans Leser describes in chapter 7, the academic phase generally lasts five or six years and the question debated is whether it could not be cut down, but nobody suggests that it could be cut: to less than four years and many, though not Leser himself, resist even that reduction.

In England and Wales by contrast the requirements for the legal education of practitioners are still lighter and shorter than in any other jurisdiction in the world, and the process of breaking the wall

-v-

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