The Future Practice of Law
Edited by William van Caenegem and Mary Hiscock
Chapter 9: Doctrine, perspectives and skills for global practice
Legal education has always been influenced by the tension between being an academic pursuit and a professional qualification. Different jurisdictions historically resolved these tensions in their own way, though most tend to hedge: requiring a professional qualification administered by the local guild (a bar exam or a pupillage), as well as a degree, in order to practice law. Only a few allow lawyers to practise with only a degree, as various Latin American jurisdictions do, or with only a professional certification – such as a handful of US statesand, until recently, Japan. How one thinks of the purpose of legal education will naturally have consequences for how one teaches. If law is perceived as primarily vocational training for lawyers, that will tend to encourage practice-oriented classes that focus on issues that may arise in a future career. If law is intended to be an academic discipline and encompass a broader liberal education, this may encourage a more theoretical approach. Few law schools admit to being in the former category, but the efforts of almost all to aspire to the latter have led to grave economic problems in legal education, particularly in the US. The American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation requirements and the pressure to rank highly in the US News & World Report have pushed law schools into behaviour that distorts their activities away from education, raising tuition costs while lowering the quality of what they offer students.
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