Guarding Our Identities: The Dilemma of Transformation in the Legal Academy
AbstractSufficient evidence now exists to justify profound changes to the way in which the academy teaches the LLB. Such changes would involve a shift from the adversarial individualistic doctrinal focus of the traditional law degree, to embracing appropriate dispute resolution, students’ emotional intelligence and resilience, and the ‘soft’ skills called for in the ‘real’ world of work. This broad project, supported by the profession and called for by students and employers, is gaining traction with a growing body of research providing exemplars of strategies to enhance and actively evolve the curriculum to address concerning levels of psychological distress amongst law student (and lawyers). Transformation of students, and therefore lawyers, through an engaged and engaging curriculum is one thing – but where do legal academics stand on this contemporary shift in focus? This paper reflects on the genesis and the possible role of the academic lawyer’s identity in contributing to, or supporting, the culture of the law more broadly. It poses the question: to what extent is the (academic) lawyer-identity itself a precondition for systematic and sustainable change in the law, and lawyering? If it is, how ready is the academy to embrace the array of strategies to engender the transformation needed?
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