Expanding the Legal Curriculum: Rethinking the Teaching of Law

What is striking to an outsider about the focus of German legal scholarship is the extent to which it centres on a canonical and dogmatic approach to the interpretation of law. This emerges very clearly from the report prepared by the German Council of Science and Humanities and translated under the auspices of the programme Rechtskulturen. At the same time, there is recognition of the need to develop legal scholarship beyond these frames of reference to engage law in a wider system of higher education and academic research. This not only requires a rethinking of the curricular design to allow for a wider range of courses and methodological approaches to the study of law but also how such courses might be taught and examined in new ways that depart from the current, centralised administrative structure that exists in Germany. Examples of the kind of courses that might be incorporated into the law degree include Socio-Legal Studies (e.g. University of Bristol see under LAWD30122), Law, Culture and Rights in a Transnational World (Edinburgh University), Law and Social Change (Kent University), Law and Society: Regulating Communities (Kent University) and Law, Anthropology and Society (MSc, London University (LSE)). Such courses are valuable because they situate law in context, going beyond abstract legal propositions to engage with how law forms part of the social world that it inhabits.

Such courses also allow for exploring how a whole range of social actors, for individuals view law both within and across national boundaries. Within my own jurisdiction, that of Scotland, this has involved empirical work over the years, such as that carried out by Hazel Genn and Alan Paterson on the extent to which people resort to law to settle contentious issues in Paths to Justice Scotland (2001). This research explores what people in Scotland do and think about going to law ...

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