Reflections on LILAC 2009

by Paul Maharg on 24/01/2009

Great conference, excellently organised as always.  If you’re in legal education anywhere in the world and you’ve never been, you really need to get yourself over to it.  So much is here for you: lots of practical stuff on so many aspects of educational practice, plenty of absorbing theory, increasingly international viewpoints, regulatory bodies and their work, and much else – as well as great food and entertainment from what’s become the house band, The 39 Steps.  The wiki was first rate, so useful, and very well supported too by Ann Priestley and the rest of the team — maybe next year something like Ning might be even better…

Highlights for me? Ian Ward’s lecture still echoes in my head – a keynote all the more effective because of the bodies of theory Ian brought to bear on legal education.  Also the conversations between sessions – kind of a continuous, long dialogue with people, hearing what they were doing, forming projects & plans.  In the panel session I talked about the importance of collaboration.  When I spoke about this at the plenary on external examining, one commentator (Martha-Marie Kleinhans) noted that this was rather a romantic notion that doesn’t account for commercial reality. Perhaps.  But if commercial reality were all that counted in legal education it would be no education at all (Martha and I discussed this later, and there actually wasn’t much separating our views.)  Regardless of how we have arrived there, we can transform the reality we find ourselves in by collaboration that reaches beyond self-interest.  It’s a tension that lies at the heart of the Enlightenment project – Hobbes / Mandeville vs Hutcheson (‘‘[T]he old notions of natural Affections, and kind Instincts; the Sensus communis, the Decorum, and Honestum, are almost banished out of our Books of morals; we must never hear of them in any of our Lectures for fear of Innate Ideas; all must be interest and some selfish View’’). The Hutchesonian view is central to Dewey’s concept of democratic education.  And at a time when the liberal concept of the law school is coming to be re-defined (Transforming; Burridge & Webb in Legal Ethics; the latest edition of The Law Teacher), the concept of committed collaboration has the capacity to be a transforming quality.  The conference itself demonstrated the fundamental need for us to work more with each other at all levels; and if I come away from the conference struck by one idea, it’s the confirmation of how central collaboration has become for me in my work, and how central it is to future of legal education.   

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