W G HART LEGAL WORKSHOP 2014
Legal Education and Training
and the Professions
Venue: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR
Monday 23 June – Tuesday 24 June, 2014
Professor Avrom Sherr, Woolf Professor of Legal Education, Director on Sabbatical, Institute
of Advanced Legal Studies;
Professor Richard Moorhead, Director, Centre of Ethics and Law,
University College London;
Professor Hilary Sommerlad, Research Director, Centre for Professional Legal Education and
Research, Birmingham Law School, Birmingham
Call for Papers
The Legal Education Review (LETR) has produced its research report, but its recommendations generate many questions. For instance, it has suggested an approach which could transcend the boundaries between the different legal professions. As a result, the LSB is pushing regulators towards evidence- and risk-based policy and the SRA are indicating a bonfire of the regulations – but do we know enough about the interactions between regulation and education to justify this move?
Another of the report’s key proposals is that legal education be shaped by outcomes unlike those currently governing education and training. However, if drawn at too high a conceptual level, such competencies might be too vague to be useful, yet if they are more tightly specified they are likely to provide a never ending list of standards to be attained. The result could be that legal educators and professionals ‘drown in a sea of competencies’, while the means by which such competencies will be assessed, and by whom, is uncertain. Will assessment be by the market, ‘traditional’ University law schools, vocational law schools, even venture capitalists? And how will such a market driven system impact on academic research?
All these questions point to an even more fundamental, and long standing, issue – namely, what is, and what should be, the role of a legal education? Should it – will it be able to – continue to seek to provide a liberal, humanist education designed primarily to inculcate a critical awareness of the meaning of law, including its ethical content and social role? Or does the emphasis on the market inevitably mean that it will be explicitly tailored to the demands of the profession? This is the logic of LETR’s recommendations, but it had great difficulty in divining the future of legal practice. Some indications may be found in a recent paper by The Law Society of England and Wales and the results of the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law’s “Innovating Justice” Project. Clearly, legal educators will need to understand the possible futures both for the professions and
the Rule of Law. However it is undeniable that this task is made more difficult by the dramatic changes the professions have undergone in recent years, which have served both to produce further fragmentation and make the future highly opaque.
These ‘big’ questions generate practical, pedagogical issues. For instance, if legal service provision is to be dominated by new models of provision, modes of delivery and concerns with professional engagement, how will this impact on what is taught and how it is taught? Should systems thinking, design and big data be integrated into a legal curriculum? And how should Law Schools respond to, on the one hand, the increased emphasis in universities on employability and, on the other, the growth in low wage, casual labour markets within the professions, markets which also appear to be predominantly populated by graduates from Black and Minority Ethnic and lower socio-economic backgrounds? Does this reduce the legitimacy of legal education? Do Law Schools have an ethical obligation to warn applicants of the likely difficulties in entering the professions? In the United States this is now a high profile issue: Law Schools have been accused of promoting their ability to provide law jobs to graduates unfairly, and have seen a significant drop in applications, leading to a review of their whole approach. President Obama has suggested that a law degree should take two, rather than three postgraduate years. The Bologna Declaration for education in the EU suggests that educational systems throughout Europe should aim for three years of education plus two years of practical training. In England and Wales solicitors are already one year above this prescription.
The WG Hart Workshop 2014 will provide some academic distance from LETR and professions’ and regulators’ responses. It represents an important opportunity to think about some of the issues identified above, and many other aspects of legal education and training and the professions.
Abstracts of 300 words (and no more than 500 maximum) should be sent to IALS.WGHart@sas.ac.uk
by email attachment by Friday 28 February 2014
The Academic Directors especially welcome contributions from early career researchers.
Registration fees will apply to the Workshop. Travel bursaries may be available for junior researchers.
Academic enquires should be sent to:
Professor Avrom Sherr: firstname.lastname@example.org
For general enquiries or if you are simply interested in attending the Workshop, please contact:
Academic Programmes Manager Institute of Advanced Legal Studies,
17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR. Email: Belinda.Crothers@sas.ac.uk
Workshop Website: www.sas.ac.uk/events/view/15715