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Transforming legal education: learning and teaching the law in the early twenty-first century

Maharg, Paul (2007) Transforming legal education: learning and teaching the law in the early twenty-first century. Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-4970-9

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Abstract

Paul Maharg presents a critical inquiry into the identity and possibilities of legal education, and an exploration of transformational alternatives to our current theories and practices of teaching and learning the law. His work takes the view that bodies of interdisciplinary theory and knowledge of the history of legal education are important to all stages of legal education. He also argues that new learning designs - such as transactional learning - need to be developed to help students, educators and lawyers deal with the transitions and challenges facing them now and in the foreseeable future. Throughout, discussions of theory are spliced with case studies of academic and professional legal learning, particularly in the field of technology-enhanced learning. Transforming Legal Education makes the case for substantial change in the ways law is studied. In a wide-ranging critique of current educational practices in our law schools and in society, the book argues for a contemporary adaptation of John Dewey's concept of pragmatic and experiential learning, for a wider interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, and for greater engagement with technology-enhanced learning. In Part 1 of the book Maharg argues the case for deeper and more sustained interdisciplinary educational practice, drawing upon problem-based learning, rhetorical theory and practice, and approaches to education in other disciplines such as music and literature. The book also argues for a more profound understanding of the history of legal education. In the three case studies that comprise Part 2, Maharg explores three historical episodes in legal educational practice - the formation of the realist curriculum at Columbia in the 1920s; ethical education at Edinburgh University in the later eighteenth century; and thirteenth century glossed texts. Part 3 consists of an extended case study of technology and experiential learning, incorporating aspects of the approaches analysed in Parts 1 and 2. Throughout, the book holds that Dewey's critique of education in his day is still relevant to legal education today. His solutions, based upon variants of experiential learning, are taken by Maharg and applied in the extended case study of simulation learning in Part 3. The book's conclusion states the case for collaboration between legal educational institutions, and for a more experientially-grounded approach to theory and practice; and ends with a hubristic account of several hours of a student's study time in 2047.