tingent (and, let us remember, non-uniform) self- understandings of its role and, on the other, an ideal- typical conception of the enterprise and its attendant skills. This is merely a general observation that applies to all actual institutions in relation to the ideal of the institution.
The Legal Profession is, in actuality, and at present, a comparatively powerful body. Traditionally, it has been able to control, to a large extent, the level of income of its members, command high status and regulate entry into its ranks by stipulating that an entrant will have certain qualifications validated by higher education institutions and or licenses, degrees, or diplomas from other institutions with the authority to confer such qualifications. The Legal Profession has the power to discipline its members, punish them or expel them In addition, it has the power to stipulate some of the content of courses which offer entry qualifications. There are many possible reasons for these stipulations, and sociologists have not been slow to read ulterior motives into them: the standard critique (of all modern professions) is that professional status legitimates the social standing of their members via association with prestigious (sacred) bodies, restricts the supply of labour and inflates the price of this labour. This is effectively, if not intentionally, the case.
Similarly, it has the power to decide what academic, technical, administrative and other skills it wishes its entrants to have. It also has the power to set up training institutions to provide these skills. It can, if it wishes, refer to these skills as 'legal skills' or 'professional skills' or anything it likes. It may, if it sees fit, consult individuals or groups outside of the profession as to what skills it ought to stipulate as being an entry requirement or desirable attribute of a prospective entrant.
Depending on The Legal Profession's judgment, these suggestions may or may not be implemented. When this dialogue occurs between The Legal Profession and The Academy, however, and bearing in mind the confusion over the subject matter of law from the point of view of the academy, we are likely to encounter a vicious circularity in the process of reasoning: for is it not the case that what we have referred to as a pragmatic approach to concept formation in this area--(i.e., the conception of law, and thus legal skills) is being formed through a 'methodology' which suggests that law is what professionals do, and that research in this area should involve the observation of what The Legal Profession does, or what it says it needs. This is to accede to the passive, uncritical model of the academy, legal scholarship and legal education which I have been at pains to criticise in the body of this piece.
I hope that the denial of an essential relationship between legal science and The Legal Profession is not perceived as an attack upon, or a criticism of, either practitioners or legal academics. I can only reiterate that my concerns are focused upon ascertaining the conditions required for any genuinely critical skills debate in the face of the mass of tacit and varied ambiguities and half-understandings engendered by habitual associations. This obstacle to a clear discussion of the issues is compounded and perpetuated by the fact that about half of the students who are taught by legal academics enter The Legal Profession. Whether or not what they have been taught in the academy proves to be helpful or 'useful' is really a matter concerning the role and activities in which The Legal Profession becomes embroiled. Where the profession alone have the power to determine what these activities will be it is hardly surprising that we continually experience a crisis of relevance in legal education. But it is clear that rationally, we cannot hope to work back from the raw experience of The Profession to the initial question of formulating a concept of law, and thus an appropriate concept of legal skills, legal education, and its curriculum.
What kind of dialogue, then, concerning legal skills can or should take place between those who are responsible for the academic integrity of the discipline, and other interested parties, particularly The Legal Profession? What could be the motives which underpinned the debate?
If a genuinely consultative dialogue concerning the general questions of legal education, skills and professional development is thought both necessary and, desirable, then the foundational arguments and resulting taxonomy of skills outlined above should prove to be of great practical use. For genuine consultation requires that we elevate reason above sectional interest, and careful analysis of the central terms of the skills debate will at least now allow us to identify directly the presuppositions of lines of argumentation which may be fuelled by ulterior motives. A prerequisite for the implementation of such a debate is the possession of the critical skills which I referred to above as academic skills, and which can be refined into scientific skills in the broadest sense. These are the kind of skills which are a precondition of avoiding the distorted communication of purely political (sectional) interaction. We must note that The Legal Profession does not participate in this debate qua self-defining sectional interest group, but as as a group of genuine communicators. We may take the opportunity to note here that an understanding of the