Students and the legal profession: what is the future looking like?

A new story is creating a stir in social media, as a result of the Law Society issuing a statement that they are considering revamping the current four-year LLB degree to be replaced by a postgraduate degree. They are considering this as there are opinions circulating that the four-year LLB does not properly equip law students, with Nic Swart of the Law Society stating: “We often find the students have problems with analysis and critical thinking”. See the story here.

As someone who completed a postgraduate degree LLB, I personally found the 5 year track far more stimulating. However, I also believe – as we discussed at great length at PILG 2011 – that there are far more fundamental issues in legal education that are hindering ‘critical thinking’ which goes beyond time spent studying. Instead, it is indicative to me that in many cases the law lecture theatre can be a sterile learning environment, wherein debate is not encouraged and alternative opinions are suffocated.

The fact is that the environment for law students will change significantly over the next few years even if this step is not taken forward, hence why at PILG we will be discussing questions on several topics related to students, education and the legal environment such as:

  • Community service in the legal profession
  • Youth activism and active citizenry in the promotion of social justice
  • Practical Outcomes: Examining legal education in SA in the context of social justice and practical legal skills
  • Language and socio-political barriers in SA (with some discussions on rights languages)
  • The Legal Practice Bill and the reform of the legal profession.

See for further details the Programme 2012.

Further, outside of the fact that students will be well-represented in panel participation, PILG 2012 will also be holding a student meetup on Friday in the lunch break at the Chalsty Centre. A significant issue for students is decreasing opportunities on graduation, as well as a lack of promotion of alternative career paths outside of the “big names”. As such, several public interest law organisations will be hosting tables in the lunch break for students and organisations to get to know each other. If your organisation would like an opportunity to be represented, please contact me here.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi, I teach socio-economic rights. The past semester I my students did several community project of their choice as part of the module. See http://ser2012.wordpress.com/project/ for details. Linda :-)

  2. As a learner in Prof Stewards class i felt that the project, the practical and theory componets, was very stimulating. At first i thought, boring class just theory, but the project empowered me to criticly understand the work. So yes i vote for the 5year plan and a more pracrical approach

  3. As a learner in Prof Stewards class i felt that the project, the practical and theory componets, was very stimulating.