TRANSFORMING LEGAL EDUCATION: LEARNING AND TEACHING LAW IN THE EARLY TWENTY‐FIRST CENTURY by PAUL MAHARG

AuthorANTHONY BRADNEY
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2008.00450_3.x
Publication Date01 Dec 2008
TRANSFORMING LEGAL EDUCATION: LEARNING AND TEACHING
LAW IN THE EARLY TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by PAUL MAHARG
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007, 346 pp., £65.00)
Reading research about legal education used to be a dispiriting business.
Anecdotal accounts of what the author did in whatever course they were
teaching largely served only to persuade the reader that some academics had
a sketchy understanding of what the word research meant. There were
occasional exceptions to the rule; articles and essays that did more than
describe, attempts to arrive at a theoretical understanding of the nature of the
discipline that we are engaged in, voyages into literature on education that
tried to make sense of that literature in the context of law schools. However
the exceptions only served to underscore the gap between what passed as
research into legal education and at least some research in other areas of
law.
1
Maharg's book on legal education is yet another illustration of how far
things have changed in the last decade or so.
2
Maharg's study is an expansive account of the nature of learning and
teaching within the law school grounded not on the author's experience of
learning and teaching, although that experience is there, but on the
exploration and analysis of a vast range of literature that starts in the book
with Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and ends with Montaigne's Essays.
On one level, Maharg's book is an engaging account of an intellectual
journey into how to improve students' learning; on another level it is a
radical critique of much that is fundamental to dominant approaches to
learning and teaching in university law schools. This book is important for
anyone who claims an interest in improving the possibilities of their
students' learning. Whether readers will find its arguments convincing is, of
course, another matter. This, in itself, is not important. Because we are
scholars we read that which we believe will contribute to our understanding
not just that which we hope to agree with.
Maharg's enquiry is in one way a limited one. It is not about legal
education as a whole but, rather, focuses specifically on learning and
teaching. This brings with it the advantage that Maharg can develop his
arguments at length and in depth. However, with this as a starting-point,
there is a query. Maharg's book celebrates the academic as `first and never-
565
1Ofcourse it is also true that it is not so long ago it could be said that `[t]he words
``English legal scholarship'' though high sounding have a similar function to the
words ``disposable paper cup''. Each adjective strengthens the message that one
cannot expect much in terms of long term quality or utility from it.' (G. Wilson,
`English Legal Scholarship' (1987) 50 Modern Law Rev. 818, at 819). However, even
against this lamentable background, writing about legal education stood out as being
bereft of scholarly weight.
2 For an analysis of the development of legal education as a sub-discipline in law, see
A. Bradney, `The Rise and Rise of Legal Education' [1997] 4 Web J. of Current Legal
Issues.
ß2008 The Author. Journal Compilation ß2008 Cardiff University Law School

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