Legal education is underrated. Well, honestly, what I mean is people, understand legal education from a very truncated point of view. To many, it is another aspect of academia that ultimately plays out in courts, policies, and corporates. But, there is more to legal education than just memorizing statutes, making short notes on case laws, throwing out arguments, winning or losing cases, and minting money. This understanding is very narrow, and I want you to know why this is such a case.
Today, we will learn about legal education, but not from the perspective of classroom education. No. In fact, I will use this opportunity to share my own experiences and use them to answer the question posed in the article’s very title. So, let us dive deep into the whys and appreciate legal education better.
It was never just law
Only when I joined law school, I realised the far-reaching ambit of legal education. You step inside the classroom thinking that you will study strictly law subjects but leave with a completely changed impression. I don’t think there is anything as overwhelmingly multidisciplinary as law. From day one, you will be taught several subjects which are not strictly law but are indispensable to legal education. For example, psychology, political science, and sociology. It does not matter whether you are a criminal lawyer or an in-house counsel; you often take cues from these otherwise non-legal subjects. Technology, medicine, military, politics, and so on; you name it, and there is something related to it in legal education.
Legal Education is more analytical than textbook
In the first year of law school, I focused my energy on memorizing laws and their commentaries. I never tried to understand them. Back then, it was more about referring to the law and applying it as it is to the problem. This trick worked for a while but eventually failed me. As you advance to senior years in law school, you are exposed to mind-boggling difficulties that cannot be solved unless you have analyzed law. It is not just about what law is but also about how it works.
A basic example is the wide ambit of the right to life, a fundamental right in all developed legal systems worldwide. Even if there are no ifs and buts to this right in the constitution, you cannot always expect a uniform answer to specific problems, such as the legality of euthanasia. Legal education makes you think differently and with an open mind.
Allows us to see society through different lenses
Society is not just a community of humans living together and working systematically. It is a complex of human emotions, relations, decisions, and actions. Not all of these can be directly addressed. Legal education trains you to see beyond what is visible and traverse through unchartered or more complicated territories. Legal education ushers in a change of mindset; it helps in social engineering society as per contemporary norms. For example, the Wolfenden Report 1957 is often regarded as a key instrument to decriminalising homosexuality in the United Kingdom. We are talking about the same country that had formulated anti-homosexuality laws in many colonies and ended up changing its own.
Strengthens the cause of justice
Justice is the running theme of effective legal education. Of course, there have been many interpretations of what Justice truly is, but whatever they may be, justice is integral to human faith. Legal education reaffirms human faith in fair judgments; on the flip side, it can also damage our faith in society. A legal system’s efficacy depends on how it has trained its stakeholders in academia. A robust and responsive community of students and scholars will offer hope to those seeking justice. This, in turn, will encourage humans to organize themselves as responsible citizens.
Legal education furthers holistic development
I think this is obvious from the aforesaid points, but let me consolidate all the points into this one. The very nature of legal education requires participants to open doors to multi-disciplinary, all-encompassing experiences. Limiting one’s faculties to predetermined principles and values will be a shame – something that legal education does not propagate. Since you are open to various educational experiences, you learn more and understand things better than most. For example, back when in 2018, Adultery was outlawed in India, and many opponents claimed that it would damage the familial fabric of the society; those part of legal academia or those knowledgeable of legal issues appreciate it because there was much more to the matter than mere outlawing extra-marital relationships.
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