I’m a Visiting Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, and I spent last week giving seminars and discussing projects with staff — seminars given to first year LLB students, doctoral students, and JD/LLM students; and to staff, on webcasts, podcasts, multimedia and other digital resources. On the last subject, see this article, and my book chapter.  Slides are on the Slides tab above, and at Slideshare.

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Final legal education session.[1]We had a call-off at the last minute, so only two speakers.  First up, Melissa Hardy on her research into the third year of a three-year cohort study into the career intentions of law degree students in the context of current and proposed legal education and training reforms

She started by describing her cohort study — the context, sample size, respondent profile, research questions and summary of key findings.  She started in 2010/11, details on UKCLE website (now archived).  Inevitable fall-off of respondents: first year, 224 respondents, second year, 137, third year, 87.  Lots of validation between her study and the UKCLE study on the same subject.  Research questions were wide — eg What range of reasons do students have choosing to study on a QLD.  On career intentions, majority of respondents enrolled on law degree intending to enter the legal profession slumped between year 2 and 3.  Reasons for studying law were also studied.  She disaggregated the data based on Russell Group, pre-92 Russell Group, and post-92.

Perceived value of the law degree was analysed, and the content of the law degree.  Her conclusions were interesting, giving comment on SQE, the competing needs of the split profession (which will increase according to her), and the ongoing value of the law degree.  LPC and BPTC courses were clearly unpopular because of cost.  More will not go into the profession than at present, so law schools need to consider what their content will be in a relatively less regulated environment.  Legal practice skills might be presented as more generic skills, eg drafting, advocacy, etc.  Her results should give comfort to law schools — respondents valued the law degree, and may not if it becomes a crammer for the SQE.  Big question — what happens if there are cheaper, quicker ways to achieve qualification than the law degree.  There were lots of data in Melissa’s intriguing work that I couldn’t summarise here – I recommend contacting her to obtain further information if you’re interested.  It’s a valuable longitudinal piece of research, and we have so few such studies in legal education.

Final speaker, Nigel Duncan on ‘Wild card modules: student experience of domestic violence, employment and social security clients on a credit-bearing module’.  This research arose out of the clinical options on the City U. Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).  He conducted research into the student experience.  He used pre-experience survey of clinic students (27 out of 47), focus group and post-experience survey of the students followed up with a focus group of 6 students.  He was interested in improving the options, but also considering the impact of working with real clients and of being assessed on that work, including students’ affective responses and their preparation for practice.

On student motivation, most comments related to own personal development; and a minority added a more client-focussed perspective (cf Nicolson’s concern about this issue, that students come to see real clients as being there for them, rather than vice versa).  From the feedback he obtained, students were very aware of client needs.  Re sources of anxiety, the main one was understandably concern about letting the client down. On emotions re the client, students perceived largely that they did reasonably well (compare with the results in my co-written 2006 correlational study assessing simulated clients, tutors and students, where students proved to be highly variable and unreliable in their estimation of their own performances when correlated to both simulated client and tutor scores).  Experiences were profound in conference, as in tribunals (‘I’ve never felt so sick and nervous in my life’).

On assessment, students expressed worries about assessment — as one student put it, ‘I am worried that getting an Outstanding mark on the course is not as straightforward as in other options’.  There were some comments to back up this statement, thought the stats seemed to indicate that they knew what to do.  Developing empathy, Nigel stated, is central, and he said that students needed to have a degree of control over what they did in order to express that empathy.  This was problematic in the domestic violence cases, where students could not represent their clients in court.  Developing moral courage was essential — initially through simulation, he said, then with real clients.  A fine piece of empirical work that gave rise to interesting questions and responses.

And that was the end of the Legal Education session at SLS 2016.  Final thoughts?  The food was excellent, throughout section B anyway; and it was great to see colleagues and chat over coffee; and SLS managed some balmy oxfordian late summer weather for us.  The sessions in Legal Education were interesting, well chosen and organised by Caroline Strevens our Legal Ed Chair – kudos to her.  Maybe it’s just me getting older and restive with the format but I do think that the 20 mins paper format has come to an end of its useful life as a way of communicating scholarly ideas.  We need to rethink digital comms of papers in larger-scale conferences such as SLS, so that they’re more useful for both audiences and speaker as well as those who could not be present; and more resonant for the future of the topic being discussed.  Above all, more integrated.  Take our Law Teacher Special Issue session, for instance.  The session could have been recorded and the presentations and comments put up beside the papers as alternative versions of the papers on The Law Teacher site – or preferably not The Law Teacher, which is paywalled, but a truly open access site.  The papers themselves could be revisited in a year or two or five, in a panel session.  And conversations could be continued on a blog, much as I’m trying to do here.  And we could also design the provision of online spaces for its membership and others internationally to come together to discuss, plan, produce, reflect around the conference and its outputs.  And… well you get the idea, I won’t go on.  I’m not suggesting that as a section Legal Education carry this out – it’s much too big a project, and needs to be undertaken by the SLS secretariat as a whole, and funds devoted to its design and development.  Can’t imagine the SLS taking that on any time soon though.


This was[1] the first session on Day 2 of the SLS Conference Legal Education section, a session devoted to the Special Issue on Learning/Technology, The Law Teacher, vol 50 issue 1 [paywall], that was published earlier this year, edited by me.  That issue, comprising six papers and discussed on this blog post, was entitled Learning/Technology because I wanted to describe the convergence of and the complex relationship between, learning and digital technologies. I also wanted to mirror Heidegger’s famous linkage of techne/poesis:

techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poietic.’  [2]

In one print-block it’s what much of this blog is about, and expresses visually one of the major problems facing the future of learning/technology in law schools:

Techne      ::    Poiesis
Learning   ::   Technology

The print-block expresses the bridge or zeugma between techne and poiesis, learning and technology; the chiasmus between techne & technology and poesis & learning; and looking at it vertically, the fusion of techne & learning, and poiesis & technology.  At first glance nothing would seem to be farther from poetry than techne.  And yet in the plenary prior to this session I argued that Heaney’s call to redress poetry involved that (amongst much else) in the redress of legal education: the linking of poiesis and techne, where we needed to bring to educational practice and theory the poetic qualities of dwelling upon thereness and upon being, and to do that in part by using techne to enhance the phenomenological process of learning.  Indeed it’s difficult to envisage any educational process that contains no techne.  Just standing talking in a room is to be surrounded by technology: the room design, its effects on communication and process, our awareness of materials, the age of design and build, the room’s place in the building, its place in a physical milieu, a campus, a neighbourhood, our clothes, the phone on my hip, how I travelled to the room, and much much else.  And language itself could be regarded as a technology, particularly the sophisticated, situated lexis and the contexts of education and law that come together in legal education.

But for Heidegger techne is not the same as technology: it encompasses much more than we commonly understand by our word ‘technology’.  In his essay ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ he writes:

To the Greeks techne means neither art nor handicraft but rather: to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way.  The Greeks conceive of techne, producing, in terms of letting appear.  Techne thus conceived has been concealed in the tectonics of architecture since ancient times.  Of late it still remains concealed, and more resolutely, in the technology of power machinery.[3]

Heidegger’s mistrust of technology goes beyond early modern equivocation, which appears as early as the work of Adam Ferguson, for whom the industrialization of Scotland, even in the mid-eighteenth-century, brought with it major and perplexing social and economic problems, and new and troubling ways of understanding the world.  But Heidegger was one of the first writers to take seriously the position that we cannot do without technology, that we possibly never could, not even in pre-history, but that in its industrial phase and beyond, we need a fundamental revision of our relationship to it.  Digital technologies, I’d argue, increase the urgency to find answers to the question concerning technology and its relationship to techne, poiesis and episteme – something I’m exploring in a chapter in a book I’m writing on legal education.

Paper titles and abstracts below, and of course full-text of papers at The Law Teacher site, above.  Four authors presented – Craig Newbery-Jones, Emily Allbon, Craig Collins, me.  The other two in the Special Issue, Dan Jackson (Northeastern U, USA) and Kris Greaves (Deakin U, Australia), couldn’t make it along.

It was a good session.  I was interested to hear that what Craig, Emily and Craig presented were versions of their papers, each subtly different in a number of ways.  This was exactly as it needed to be, each paper lasting only 15 mins or so, and for a generalist audience.  I think we all enjoyed the session.  Session is the right word – there was something of a musical jam about it.  We knew the themes, the ground, 12-bar blues, Folia variations, whatever.   We took them up from each other and gave different variations to the ground. We might hold an Australian version at PEARL.[4]  We really ought to go on the road with it.  And talking of which, when did you last attend an SLS session that began with Heidegger and ended with the Grateful Dead?[5]



Ethical Experiments with the D-Pad: Exploring the Potential of Video Games as a Phenomenological Tool for Experiential Legal Education.
Craig Newbery-Jones, Plymouth University

In contemporary society, video games have become a ubiquitous cultural medium, a popular pastime rivalling television and cinema. While many preconceptions exist about the audience of these sources, often perpetuated by stereotypes around ‘gamer’ culture, recent surveys have shown their wide-ranging demographic. Additionally, the masculine gender bias that is perceived to exist within gaming communities has been shown to be rapidly decreasing. This emerging universality has inevitably encouraged educationalists to consider how best to utilise gaming and elements of video game technology in the development of e-learning tools. Alongside their audio-visual features, it is the experiential and phenomenological characteristics of video games that can be employed to allow students to conceptualise abstract principles and actively experiment with their own ethical beliefs in an environment free of real-world consequences. Building upon the work of Maharg and Owen, and Lettieri et al, this paper will explore the potential of video games as a tool for experiential learning, specifically the study of ethics and related jurisprudential themes, and will propose how existing video games can be used as an educational tool for phenomenological experimentation of concepts. Finally, this article will draw upon the author’s previous work to assert how video games can be used as a learning tool for the conceptualisation of abstract themes, specifically justice.


Seeing is Believing: We are All Converging
Emily Allbon, City University

In a country (the UK) where huge personal investment is required to undertake legal education and training, it is right that an ever-increasing emphasis is placed on student satisfaction. Keeping students engaged is a key priority for universities and technology has a large role to play in this, whether in the context of face-to-face, wholly online or blended learning. The debate around where the line is drawn between engagement and entertainment rumbles on. Challenges exist in relation to information/digital and multimodal literacies, but there is much scope for innovation in teaching and learning thanks to emerging technologies. The article looks at ways in which those teaching in law could be inspired by other disciplines and methodologies; embedding literacies commonly dealt with outside of the faculty, by librarians, technologists and designers within their curriculum.


Story Interface and Strategic Design for New Law Curricula.
Craig Collins, ANU

This article argues for the essential value of stories and strategic thinking in crafting new law curricula – the re-imagination of which is compelled by the rise of information technology and the virtual age. In canvassing the stuff of curriculum, it argues for the restoration of the notion of law as a community of discourse, rather than as a body of rules and content. It highlights the Ramist influence giving rise to the conventional notion of curriculum and its emergence in concert with printing press technology. This influence, in turn, spawned the centrality of the textbook to university education. A new notion of curriculum is proposed as something emerging in concert with cyberspace, framing a journey of personal transformation, a process of initiation or a rite of passage. Strategic design is then identified as the kind of thinking necessary for crafting new law curricula, with observations about some of the central opportunities and constraints presented by the virtual age. Finally, the notion of ‘story interface’ is proposed, drawing upon Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and hero’s journey for supporting students through their initiation into the discipline. Such initiation clothes students with a new identity and a developed capability for serving not only the community of legal discourse, but the stablising core of democratic society at large.


Paul Maharg

Disintermediation is a concept well-understood in almost all industries.  At its simplest, it refers to the process by which intermediaries in a supply chain are eliminated, most often by digital re-engineering of process and workflow.  It can often result in streamlined processes that appear more customer-focused.  It can also result in the destruction of almost entire industries and occupations, and the re-design of almost every aspect of customer and client-facing activity.  To date, legal education in particular has not given much attention to the process.  In this article I explore some of the theory that has been constructed around the concept.  I then examine some of the consequences that disintermediation is having upon our teaching and learning, and on our research on legal education, as part of the general landscape of digital media churn; evaluate its effects, and show how we might use aspects of it in two case studies that are, effectively, versions of the future of legal education.


SLS Conference, session 2

September 9, 2016

The second session started with Amanda Zacharopoulou, describing the experience of pre-arrival activities at the University of Ulster Law School She described the process of developing induction activities for students, and particularly pre-arrival activities.  Through evaluation they found: the majority of students felt confident to study law; students felt studies advisers were encouraging and supportive; […]

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SLS conference 2016, Legal Education section, plenary

September 9, 2016

I was asked to give a plenary talk to the SLS Legal Education section.  I invited Dirk Rodenburg, Director of Undergraduate and Professional Programs from Queen’s University Law School, Ontario, to join me to talk about his new simulation platform as part of the presentation, and to talk about his unique blending of medical and […]

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Indyref 2

June 25, 2016

Well, I’ve spent the nine hours or so of this day’s morning here in Glasgow watching Europe beginning to unravel.  Desperately sad. Huge implications for Scotland.  I voted remain, along with the rest of Scotland, and in 2014 voted yes in indyref but was in the minority then.  See this blog post and this article.  […]

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Legal Education Research Network workshop

June 16, 2016

I was asked by Pat Leighton to contribute to the LERN workshop today at IALS, ‘Effective dissemination of research findings’, so am focusing on ‘New media and digital research literacies for legal educators’, a session I gave last year and which I’ve updated.  Slides as usual at the tab above and at Slideshare.  One very […]

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Imagination and legal reasoning, session 3

June 16, 2016

I’m chairing this (predominantly pedagogy) session so comments will be short.  Useful paper by Paul Harris on developmental psychology.  Causal thinking is often influenced by counterfactual thinking — explored by psychologists in the late eighties eg Wells & Gavinski 1989, particularly with regard to children’s development.  He cited Harris et al 1996 (cited here).  He […]

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Imagination & legal reasoning, session 2

June 16, 2016

Firt up, Suzanne Keen.  She’s a narratologist, written on empathy and the novel, amongst much else.  She contrasted immersion with perspective-taking and role-taking, and defined various forms of empathy.  Machiavellian empathy — evolved behaviour, eg psychopaths demonstrate it a lot; self-empathy, where you deal with threats by imagining what they will do to you; fantasy […]

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Imagination and Legal Reasoning: History, Theory, Pedagogy

June 15, 2016

Maks Del Mar, Simon Stern and I had the idea, quite a while back now, to hold a series of workshops, internationally, on the subject of legal reasoning.  But not only legal reasoning, but the concept as within the context of other disciplines, other bodies of knowledges and practices.  The workshops and background information are […]

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