A future for legal education: professional development and ethics
Professor Nigel Duncan has called for professional ethics to be given a more central role in undergraduate law degrees. He presented a paper entitled 'A Future for Legal Education: Professional Development and Ethics' to an invited audience of leading academics during the Higher Education Academy's (HEA) 'Law Summit' 2014.
Professor Duncan is Course Director of the LLM in Professional Legal Skills at The City Law School. His research focuses on the preparation of ethical professional lawyers and he is convenor of Teaching Legal Ethics UK. He says that legal educators can use the changing professional landscape as an opportunity to innovate:
"Regulators are seeking greater flexibility in the processes by which individuals may become qualified to provide legal services and this is likely to imply less prescription of the content of legal education programmes. In this changing environment law schools face the challenge of proving the inherent value of their programmes but it also offers the opportunity to develop a genuinely distinctive offering which meets the interests of their students and their faculty".
Professor Duncan explained that one of the clearest conclusions of the Legal and Education Training Review (LETR) was the centrality of professional ethics and legal values to practice across the regulated workforce. He went on to explore a variety of approaches which might be adopted when considering how the relationship between morality and law, the values underpinning the legal system and the role of lawyers in relation to those might be addressed most effectively in undergraduate law degrees.
His research uses insights drawn from a series of workshops and online interaction facilitated by the International Forum on Teaching Legal Ethics and Professionalism website of which Professor Duncan is a founder. It is designed to be an interactive resource and forum for those interested in the education and training of legal professionals.
The Higher Education Academy (HEA) 'Law Summit' 2014 took place at Burleigh Court, in the grounds of Loughborough University, on January 22nd and January 23rd. An expert panel was followed by a series of presentations focusing on critical issues within legal education. Professor Duncan and other experts with longstanding experience in different educational and policy contexts addressed some of the most pressing issues facing the sector. The event was designed to explore the most effective ways in which the HEA might support legal education in the future.