Law teachers `too specialised'

February 10, 1995

Law teachers in universities and colleges need more professional development training to deliver the broader curriculum recommended by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education, according to a report out last week.

A profile of teaching staff in law schools, based on the findings of a survey last summer reveals a well-qualified but highly-specialised pool of teachers with little experience or knowledge of subjects outside legal education.

Research funded by Anglia Polytechnic University business school and developed through the Association of Law Teachers' legal education research project found most law teachers hold law degrees and 60 per cent hold legal professional qualifications.

A quarter had entered their current teaching post from professional legal practice, while more than half moved from teaching other subjects or full-time study.

More than three quarters held postgraduate qualifications, with 35 per cent holding a taught postgraduate degree in law, 22 per cent with an MPhil or PhD in law and 21 per cent with academic postgraduate qualifications in subjects other than law.

Questions about law teachers' reading habits showed a strong tendency among them to subscribe personally to law journals, with a few regularly consulting non-law publications, especially those dealing with economics, finance, business and government.

Patricia Leighton, head of Anglia's business school centre and co-author of the report, said the findings showed law teachers probably needed more professional development to familiarise themselves with law-related areas such as economics, politics, social psychology and the labour market, if they were to provide broader-based courses in line with proposals from the Lord Chancellors' committee.

"It is perhaps a symptom of the relative isolation of many law schools from other departments in universities that their teaching staff are so highly specialised, and are generally not well-versed in other areas which have a bearing on the legal profession," she said.

Today's Law Teachers: Lawyers or Academics? by Patricia Leighton, Tom Mortimer and Nicola Whatley, available from Cavendish Publishing Ltd, The Glass House, Wharton Street, London, price Pounds 25.

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