The Future of Legal Education Conference: general response

by Paul Maharg on 24/02/2008

This was a great conference, no doubt about it.  I talked to one participant who had already been to four Carnegie-related events since the publication of the book, and she said this one was the best to date.  It was international, drawing from at least ten different countries’ legal educational practice; it was broadly based in terms of theory and practice; it addressed the issue of transformation which in the wake of Carnegie and Best Practices is what is needed; it contained substantial theory and plenty of practical examples; and there was the opportunity to hear more about and join organisations such as the Global Alliance for Justice Education.  Clark Cunningham has done a great job in pulling it all together – there are few people who could have done it. 

The conference also addressed issues that the Carnegie report could perhaps have dealt with in more depth – the issue of diversity, for instance (eg the effect of the signature pedagogy on students of colour); leadership in these matters (deans were present, particularly in the Transforming Existing Law Schools section, though significantly enough no representation from Harvard [apart from Gene Koo from Berkman on technology], Stanford, even UCLA); international perspectives, and technology. In this respect it served to take Carnegie concepts and critiques into new areas of law school experience. 

At a more personal level, I was moved by the passion and commitment of the speakers – not just those on the floor, but in private conversations with almost everyone.  Some speakers were outstanding in this regard – John Berry, Legal Division Director of the Florida Bar, and Mary Lu Bilek, Associate Dean, CUNY, come to mind. We were all there for basically the same reasons, so I guess it was a highly selective grouping of people; but it was also a sceptical and knowledgeable grouping too, who were listening to each other closely, and finding new things at almost every session.  I found it humbling and inspirational to be here and listen to what was going on in different jurisdictions.  I’m taking a shopping list of approaches home with me – so much to read about, plan, and begin to think about implementing in legal education in Scotland.

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