Legal Education in Crisis? Workshop, Panel 5

by Paul Maharg on 06/03/2017

Panel 5 was a Roundtable: Research Groups on Legal Education over a working lunch.  Beth Mertz was working us hard…  Present was the Association of American Law Schools (Jeff Allum, Pablo Molina).  Pablo introduced the services and media of AALS, including the Journal of Legal Education.  Jeff introduced the Before the JD project.   Next, the Harvard Law School Centre on the Legal Profession (John Bliss), AccessLex (Tiffane Cochran), and Nottingham Law School Centre for Legal Education (my colleague Jane Ching).  Jane outlined the work of the Centre for Legal Education which in my view (note: personal view, not centre policy), with its emphasis on professional and regulatory research, is in some respects what the New Realism movement is aiming for – and certainly what PEARL aims for.  It was why I was attracted to the work of the CLE in the first place.  Nice to see it in the context of other centres.  I could see the point of this panel session, but unlike the earlier ones, there maybe wasn’t enough tension and focus to the idea.

Finally, we had a round-up of ideas that participants had nominated for further discussion.  Beth asked me to lead a group on pedagogy — five of us, though thinking back on it I had an odd Shackleton-expedition feeling that there was another shadowy member of the group: ‘But when I look ahead up the white road / There is always another one walking beside you’.  Probably just lack of sleep.  Certainly the group was vigorous enough as it was — lots of fascinating conversation and ideas; and the group actually worked really well as an opportunity for private questions about our work that we had presented to each other.  Topics discussed:

  1. Medical education – how deep can we dive, in interdisciplinary collaboration and borrowings?  IMO I think we’ve barely broken surface in what contains oceanic depths.  There’s so much we can learn in terms of research methodology and research organisation; curriculum design; signature pedagogies / assessments; professionalism; scientific methods; use of space and time in the curriculum.
  2. Educational research methodology in legal education – clarifying methods
  3. Medical practitioners are urged to spend time equally (?) on teaching, researching, practising.  What does that say about their profession vs the legal profession (apart from the economic issue)?
  4. Medical humanities.  What would a legal humanities look like?
  5. New knowledge, new skills, and do we really need the ones we focus on in law school.  Eg as I pointed out in an article on PBL (at p.94) that methodology introduces new knowledge and new skills into the legal curriculum that replace conventional forms of legal knowledge.
  6. Changed modes of regulation required
  7. The difficulty of charting and researching student learning in the field, particularly given the variety of platforms and media that students can use to facilitate that learning.
  8. The ways that teachers prepare for their classes — how do they do it.
  9. Open Educational Resources, OER. Do we need a consortium of law schools to help put such resources together?  Should there be a research network on this, to try out methods, demonstrate efficacy, etc?

The key question at the end of the group, and for the conference as a whole is always how do we take this forward?

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