Examining the Law Syllabus: The Core

By P. B. H. Birks; Society of Public Teachers of Law (London, England) | Go to book overview

EDITOR'S PREFACE

THE great difference between law and moral philosophy lies in the obligation to come to decisions: day after day the courts have to give judgment. Law thus carries the extra burdens of certainty and consistency. This is what Blackstone means when he says, following Aristotle, that law is 'the principal and most perfect branch of ethics' and remarks on it as a matter of astonishment and concern 'that a science like this should ever have been deemed unnecessary to be studied in an university' ( Commentaries, 1.27). And this too is what the great Ulpian meant when he told first-year law students at the beginning of the third century AD that their business was to cultivate justice and to profess the knowledge of all that was fair and good, 'a genuine philosophy and not, unless I am much mistaken, a sham' (D.1.1.1 pr. and 1).

Many English practitioners preach a very different gospel. They profess to treat the law as though it were of no intellectual interest and calculated to narrow the vision of life. This is extraordinary, since everybody who studies law seriously, and reads the law reports, sees all the nooks and crannies of humanity; so far as 'breadth' means anything at all, the new lawyer is likely to have seen a good deal more than contemporaries reading history or geography or economics or sociology. John Mortimer, Q.C., nevertheless recently said, in an interview directed at the young, that it would be better not to read law at all, adding that he very much regretted having done so. 'Law isn't what I'd call an academic subject,' he said. 'For that you need something to which you apply some sort of original thought or imagination. Law is just a question of knowing it or not' ( Law Student, October 1992, 9). Patrick Phillips, Q.C., speaks much to the same effect. He takes the view that a law degree is a complete waste of time and says, with pride, that he reckons himself the better for never having attended a single law lecture (p. 17 below). You tend not to find consultant physicians disparaging their subject in this way. Nor patients in pursuit of doctors who have not read medicine. Unfortunately, the more students follow the Mortimer-Phillips advice, the more will end up doing their law in crammed conversion courses, where they will learn boiled-down notes by heart. The prophecy will seem to be fulfilled, but what will be proved is that crammers can ruin law as effectively as any other subject.

This low or trade view of law, far removed from anything that goes on in a decent law school, leads to all sorts of money-saving fixes--quick conversion courses, for example, for non-law graduates, law degrees heavily diluted with more watery matter, and two-year law degrees. The turmoil in the system (p. 9f. below) can be interpreted as a clash between the minimalist persuasion and those more of the Blackstone-Ulpian view, for whom law cannot but be a long study, arduous but intellectually rewarding. Whether our law is reduced in the twenty-first century to outlines and short notes distilled by crammers--what Romanists recognize as post-classical decline and vulgarization--will depend on the outcome of this struggle. Already, voices are heard to say that a smattering of business law picked up in a crammed vocational year will suffice. That smattering will have about as much relation to the real thing as a comic to a great novel.

On the continent the minimalists have no audience, no more than they do here when the subject is medicine, dentistry or architecture rather than law. The year of the single European market is not the best time for English lawyers to go for quick fixes which mean laxer standards of competence, less learning, and lower status. It is, in Blackstone's phrase, a matter of astonishment and concern that they have not risen to the challenge of these European transformations to demand more, to ensure that the profession is every bit as able and learned as in Holland, France and Germany. Amateur indifference to legal education is not a general feature of the common law world. The Americans and Australians, for example, insist on rigorous standards. But in Britain the Thatcher years numbered the universities among the enemies of the quick buck. They are. If everything, including the law, is not to end up jerry- built, we have once more to learn to value the foundations which they used to protect.

This book is about the post-core options. In other words it is about that part of the curriculum which is most threatened by the minimalist point of view and which is already by-passed where minimalist views have prevailed. Non-law graduates in England do no options. People studying for mixed degrees are not obliged to do more than the minimum six subjects. There must be serious doubts whether our European neighbours will continue to recognize such people as entitled to an equality of professional respect. Already our shorter short-cuts to professional qualification seem barely to satisfy the European requirements for

-3-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Examining the Law Syllabus: The Core
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 120

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.