Breaking out of the box: School of Law reviews legal education
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Big changes are afoot in the way law is being taught, and will be taught, at CityU, with a major review of the substance and structure of legal education currently underway in the School of Law (SLW).
Acting Dean, Mr David Smith, said SLW now recognizes that there has been undue emphasis on the teaching of legal doctrine and that more emphasis must now be placed on teaching legal reasoning: teaching students to think like lawyers.
More emphasis will also be placed on teaching about legal process-how laws are created and administered and how the judicial and administrative processes work. And there will be more discussion of values: who does the law help, who does it discriminate against, and are the legal system and professional services accessible to all? "We feel we need a more dynamic approach to teaching law than may have characterized the School in the past," Mr Smith explained. SLW has to provide more skills training for its students, not just in analytical thinking but also in advocacy, negotiation, problem solving, research and writing, and in understanding law in its social, economic and political contexts.
Orientation Week has major impact
One response to the call for change was the launch last September of an Orientation Week for Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB) students, to give them a broad overview of law and the legal profession. Members of the profession visited CityU and talked to the students about their work, what it means to be a lawyer, and the special qualities a lawyer needs. "That programme had a major impact both on the students and on the teaching staff because it opened the window to what the possibilities are in legal training and law practice," Mr Smith said.
The School has also taken steps to introduce new courses. "We've been working on educating students about the variety of fields they can go into within the law and some of today's growth areas include international property law, communications law, cyber law, environmental law, trade and investment, the WTO, legal services for the poor, and Chinese law generally," Mr Smith said. Two new courses on cyber law and law of the European Community were introduced this academic year.
Legal education under review
SLW put together a major document expressing views about the future of legal education in
Another factor affecting legal education in
Three-year programme a handicap
What particularly concerns Mr Smith is that in the mainland and in
Foundation for graduate legal education
The School has built a foundation for moving in the direction of graduate legal education: it admits a number of students who already have degrees in other disciplines to its LLB programme. In addition, the recently introduced BBA (Honours) in Accountancy and Law enables graduates from that programme to convert into the LLB programme. "So that's another way to be able to teach law at the graduate level. I still would like all those students to have much more exposure to the liberal arts and sciences and some experience working in the real world, but it certainly is a step in the right direction," Mr Smith said.
Developing exchange programmes with mainland universities and universities overseas is another priority for SLW. Some students went to Xi'an University for a two-week workshop last year and 30 students from
"The more interaction you have between
The School has also established exchange relations with
Each year, SLW hosts 10 or so exchange students who enrol in the Master of Laws in Chinese and Comparative Law (LLM) programme and this year had its first students from
Rethinking legal education
Another area where SLW has made significant progress relates to raising overall admission standards for the LLB and the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws. This change, coupled with the increased recruitment of overseas students, has helped to raise the level of legal education at CityU. "Teachers tell me that it has become increasingly stimulating and rewarding to teach law because the quality of the students continues to grow-and this is very important for the University."
As far as research is concerned, Mr Smith said SLW has been productive, with seven books and 87 journal articles produced by a faculty of 35 in 1999-2000. In addition to holding periodic seminars to talk about research in progress, the School has also reduced teaching loads to around nine hours per week. "I think that's helped a lot," he said. "I think there's a stronger research culture in SLW now, with people showing drafts of their work to other faculty and constantly raising publication standards. "All in all, the stage is set for breaking out of the box and designing a system of legal education that will provide the quality lawyers
Academic staff: 35
Students: 442 (UGC funded); 48 (self-financing)
Student exchange agreements:
Washington College of Law, American University, US; University of Law, Economics and Science of Aix-Marseilles, France; School of Law, Erasmus University, The Netherlands; Jonkoping International Business School, Sweden; Department of Law, Fudan University, China; Northwest Institute of Politics and Law, China.
Associate of Legal Studies; Bachelor of Laws with Honours; Postgraduate Certificate in Hong Kong Law; Postgraduate Certificate in Laws; Master of Arts in Arbitration and Dispute Resolution; Master of Laws in Chinese and Comparative Law.