New Foundations: Re-designing the Academic Stage of Legal Training

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

Day three of Law on Trial made me think:  “Why do lawyers spend so much time arguing ?” The answer is obvious: “Because they can’t help it!” Besides which –  how do you define an argument? Is it a heated discussion, or just people who have different views, perhaps the word “debate” would be better. Or is it because in the heart of every lawyer there lies the innate desire to always challenge the person with the opposing viewpoint, yes perhaps there we have it! The adversarial technique… is it genetically inherited? /environmentally cultivated? /developed through peer pressure? /caught like a virus? / or does it infect you like a Trojan Worm, so that once it has got itself into your system, it seems to be self-perpetuating forever and ever? A lawyer’s lot is not a happy one it seems, when they are studying or teaching something which they would rather not be.

The Alternative Law Degree

I thought I was already following a pretty alternative course. Since coming to Birkbeck I seem to have spent more time studying history, politics, economics and the welfare state, than it seems I have spent on studying the law itself, but then the law is purely a product of all those anyway. I don ‘t know about anyone else, but I think I ‘m already on the Alternative Law Degree. So at the end I may well end up getting an LLA (LLAlternativa!) But to be honest with you, I have totally enjoyed myself in the process, and like somebody said tonight, no one has yet dared to actually lay down what categorically comprises the content material/exact syllabus of the core subjects. We ‘re all going to be happy with “violence” and “environment” instead of criminal and land law.  In any case, it’s only the words you choose to define things. The things you are defining will still be there, whatever words you use. Your job as teachers is to instill in the student the ability to think critically, and for this Birkbeck deserves a FIRST PRIZE and a GOLD STAR. Education is not about just getting a first,  it’s also about discovering your own abilities and developing them, in order to change society, and I think that Birkbeck is doing its level best to make that happen.


One thought on “New Foundations: Re-designing the Academic Stage of Legal Training

  1. Razia Baksh

    I can completely agree with you here! I once said to a Law seminar leader that ‘I felt that debate was far better suited to the discussion than, say, the term argue’. She only pulled me up on this and retorted that ‘I was just trying to be too nice was not confrontational enough’.
    I had not realized that I was supposed to be on the battle field for three evenings a week. Currently, on the LLM course at BBK and feel as if I am back at Art school with three-year-olds on my course.


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