ILEC 20214, Session 4

by Paul Maharg on 11/07/2014

Session 2 I was presenting on a version of The Wrong Story — slides on the Slides page, on the tab above.  Also on the panel were Victoria Rees, regulator, BC Canada, and Adrian Evans.  Had to take time to answer stuff coming in on email, but here we are at 4B, ‘Responding to the ethics and values recommendations of LETR: What and Why?’  This is two part, and I’m in the second part, so I’ll try to summarise briefly the What element.

Liveblogging again…  First up, Ann Thanaraj, quick roundup of recent developments in England, USA, India, and elsewhere.  Her title: ‘Using virtual clinics to develop and experience professional responsibility and clinical legal skills’.  Ambitious title.  She characterised the LLB as a liberal law degree, holistic.  I tend to disagree.  That’s the rhetoric.  The reality is highly variable and very different, across the stratification of law schools in the UK.  She argues for (abstract) ‘opportunities that will provide students with appropriate tools to resolve intercultural communication barriers’ and she cited the Cumbria Lawyer Skills simulation, but didn’t seem to cover it in the presentation — I’d like to hear a lot more about it.

Keren Bright of the OU next.  Keren said exactly what I thought — not all law schools are holistic experiences.  There’s a lot of box-ticking, and subjects are taught in sealed boxes.  She focused on Recs. 6 & 7 of LETR.  Cited examples of counter-cultural critique (my term, thinking about what I’ll be saying later this afternoon) eg intellectual property norms of western legal cultures, vs aboriginal understandings of property.  She distinguished between higher order values and sub-sets of legal values.  Interesting, but I’m not sure of the usefulness of it; but it’s probably the function of a 20 min race through ideas.

Robert Herrian, also of the OU, on how LETR affects law teaching at the OU.  He noted the OU is open-access in its approach to learning and teaching.  Huge number of students — c.6,000 into the level one courses.  How do they deal with ethics, not just in scale?  Four points.

  1. To what extent shd open access seek to confront the diversity of student approaches?
  2. Should open access institutions operationalise and normalise institutional discourses?
  3. Should law schools foster Iragary’s otherness of the Other?
  4. Lost his fourth point…

He focused on relationship in the learning process — how do we construct that?  how do we enact it?  Quoted from Iragary on the problems of relating to the Other.  He turned Iragary’s critique on the legal educational process — are we as educators to blame for the design of undergraduate teaching, plying them with practical information, stripping them of their ethical ideals?  What about their ethical identities?  The psycho-analytic theories of Iragary are a tool for analysis.  Agreed!  But not the distinction he made between the academic and the practical stages of legal education.  This is surely too polarised a distinction — the whole Deweyan approach

Lisa Webley – ‘legal ethics, values and subconscious bias: developing the reflexive practitioner’.  She focused on Rec 9.:

Recommendation 9
Learning outcomes should be developed for post-qualification continuing learning in the specific areas of:

  • Professional conduct and governance.
  • Management skills (at the appropriate points in the practitioner’s career. This may also be targeted to high risk sectors, such as sole practice).
  • Equality and diversity (not necessarily as a cyclical obligation).

Her hypothesis: implicit bias training may be a vehicle through which an ongoing dialogue about values can be had with lawyers in educational and CPD settings.  Lisa cited Binna Kandola on bias and explained how she used this acknowledgement of universal bias to begin to analyse, eg, the ‘shocking statistics’ on minority group entrance into the legal profession in E+W and how these undermine equality and dignity.  She cited her research on how the legal professions uses proxies in order to appear fair, eg this person went to a better university, that’s why he/she was employed, this person is better at billable hours, etc.  What do we need?  A mechanism by which a meaningful discussion of values can take place including the role of a legal professional in the maintenance of the rule of law, the client drivers, the ethical obligations beyond mere code compliance.  And it may then assist them to become a more reflective practitioner.  She gave examples of tests, eg gender and race unconscious bias tests.  Very interesting presentation.

Finally, Graham Ferris.  From the point of view of the student, he asked, what do students value — see the SOLON project.  They value friends, future husbands, wives, and the sense of growing that they develop.  Modernity makes identity a conscious project, he said.  Not sure I entirely agree with that.  He surely is avoiding the literature on how society constantly gives us, and we accept unconsciously, a whole host of identities.  Still, I agree that professional identity in law (and he didn’t mean a vocational identity only) is something that we should be helping students to construct, deconstruct, interrogate.  And LETR, he said, gives him permission to do that.  Good points.

At questions, Robert Herrian commented that the idea of identity projects described by Graham concerned him, especially given what he was saying regarding Iragary and the relationship with the Other.  Graham’s answer — let a thousand flowers bloom.

Question to Lisa — was her approach effective, did it work?  Lisa said she’d just begun with this approach, but Kandola had carried out research on it.

Good session.

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