Critical Legal Conference 2013

Critical legal education: perspectives and methods

Stream Organiser: Ubaldus de Vries (Utrecht University, the Netherlands)

University teaching contributes to the academic development of students. Ready knowledge is a foundational element of any discipline – the concepts and theories, language and skills – that provides the intellectual toolbox. But knowledge alone is not enough, it has to be questioned and problematized. A critical attitude provides insights and, hence, new knowledge. In university legal education, this is no different: students acquire knowledge about the law and reflect upon this knowledge to gain insight into law’s operations. The question, though, is to what end, and whether, we teach law in this manner. Within this broader question, the issue can be raised whether, for example, legal education has to be practice-orientated (in the sense that legal education consists of the study of that what happens in practice, with the judge as a role model) or academically-orientated: questioning that what happens in practice, teasing out the underlying structures of power and power relations. Too often, the (ideological) foundations of law are taught unreflectively, unquestioned and taken as self-evident.

This stream seeks to explore ideas of teaching law in a critical way – critical, then, broadly understood. It does so on the presumption that the tone is (or can be/should be) set as regards the academic attitude we expect from students: an inquisitive, critical perspective on law, what it is and what it does. What are the perspectives taken on law in and what methods are explored in teaching students to study law inquisitively and critically? Is it by contextualising law through social theory (the age of technology in modernity, post-modernity, liquid modernity, second modernity?), through emphasising a philosophical basis of law and how law pertains to power structures and the political? Is there a shared critical pedagogical ideology within critical legal studies and if so how could it be formulated?

These are some of the questions this stream seeks to explore. In doing so, the stream builds upon the experiences shared in Wales and Stockholm. So far, the stream plans two sessions. In the first session papers will be presented taking a more theoretical perspective on the theme of critical legal education. The second session is open to exchanging best and new practices in the class room, followed by a plenary discussion on critical legal education, its worth and potential. 

If you seek to present a paper in any of the two sessions described above, please send paper abstracts of 300 words to Bald de Vries u.devries@uu.nl) before the 15 June 2013 deadline.

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