Assessment of professional legal education

by Paul Maharg on 08/06/2012

Currently presenting at a conference organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. I was invited by Agusti Cerillo Martinez, the Director of the Law & Political Science Dept to speak on simulation and legal education; and I’ve focused on issues of the assessment of professional education.  I’m interested in this not least because of the work we’re doing on LETR on the regulation of legal education.  Slides here; and more on this below the fold.

Starting with Julian’s description of professionalism as  ‘a dynamic, contingent and contested practice, responsive to a range of ideological, economic and situational factors’   [1], I argued for a dynamic and active professionalism that needs to be developed, as per Dewey’s educational practices, in a habitual, exploratory environment.  We looked at how SIMPLE could support such an environment, and how it was used across a number of jurisdictions.  We also looked at how the context of a definition of professionalism, from a regulatory point of view, was essential, and in particular the Law Society of Scotland’s innovative creation of a set of professionalism outcomes.  We looked at how this could be used in mobile learning environments, and how sims and online legal learning could be integrated.  Some great questions afterwards, including one on whether we had conducted any large scale analysis of how learning took place.  I pointed to some small-scale projects, but forgot to mention the excellent work carried out by my colleagues at Strathclyde, Karen Barton & Fiona Westwood, in their article here and in the update in their chapter in Affect (2011).

Clearly every jurisdiction is different as regards relations between the legal profession and legal education, and its understanding of what professionalism consists of, and how that understanding can be embedded and practised in legal education (and as Julian usefully points out, this will always be a contested understanding).  But there is so much that we can learn from each other in our different jurisdictions regarding that.  At OUC there is an innovative Masters course in legal practice that already uses innovation, and there is interest in taking that further; and I look forward to learning more about how the OUC is doing that.  I’m planning a book on simulation & legal learning, and this would a useful chapter in that publication.

My thanks once again to Agusti for the invitation, and for looking after my wife Nicola and me so well in Barcelona.

  1. [1] Webb, J. (2008).  The dynamics of professionalism: The moral
    economy of English legal practice – and some lessons for New
    Zealand?  Waikato Law Review, 16, 21-45 at 22.

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