Academic Learning in Law

Academic Learning in Law

Theoretical Positions, Teaching Experiments and Learning Experiences

Edited by Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries

This timely book calls for a critical re-evaluation of university legal education, with the particular aim of strengthening its academic nature. It emphasizes lecturers’ responsibility to challenge the assumptions students have about law, and the importance of putting law in a theoretical and social context that allows for critical reflection and sceptical detachment. In addition, the book reports upon teaching experiences and innovations, offering tools for teachers to strengthen the academic nature of legal education.

Chapter 9: Visuals for a critical legal profession

Wibo van Rossum

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law


Not only the law itself is ‘dead material’ that needs to be brought to life, the same goes for texts that describe, explain or critique the law. I do not mean to downplay the creative-writing capabilities of many legal scholars, but I think more than text is necessary to infuse students with a critical outlook on legal phenomena. In today’s visual culture, law is often seen in Hollywood movies and series such as CSI. Law students – just like many others – are permanently ‘online’, using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other visual social media to connect, exchange information and make public their current social status. When they enter the classroom however, they often have to go back to the ‘old days’ (of the teacher) of reading large amounts of text and a few lecture slides (also with text) to support that process. Including visuals (e.g. photos, documentaries, etc.) brings teaching more inline with the ordinary way students process and produce information. However, a second and more important argument is that ‘bringing the visual in’ in teaching law, will help students develop a more imaginative critical perspective on law. Photos and film confront students with real-life situations, which together with a case or social issue, and the story behind it enables them to put themselves in the shoes of the people concerned. There is a third reason for why using visuals are good.

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