chapter  3
‘Theoretical dimensions’ of legal education
Pages 25

One of the most striking criticisms that the 1987 Pearce Report makes of Australian legal education is that it is too ‘rule-oriented’.1 The report calls for greater emphasis on the critical and theoretical dimensions of law, and suggests that in designing their programmes law schools should ‘look afresh at the theoretical dimensions of law’.2 This call by legal academics to legal academics is not made by educational radicals out of the mainstream. The authors of the report recognize that for a long time legal academics have felt that legal education was not just a matter of ‘learning the rules’. Most were inclined to follow the late Professor David Derham in characterizing this as a ‘trade school’3 approach to legal education and, as such, inadequate for a university. What, however, is the problem with legal education? How is it that the general awareness of the importance of the theoretical dimensions has not been translated into legal education? What specifically are the theoretical dimensions of law that must be added, and how are they to be integrated into the legal curriculum? This chapter concerns itself with these questions, and it starts by stating the problem with legal education as seen by us, and the causes of this problem (Section 1). The suggestion is then made that what is missing in legal education are the teaching of legal theory in its broadest sense, and an awareness of the questions it addresses (Section 2). In Section 3, we then sketch a solution, which sets out one way in which legal theory could be integrated into the undergraduate curriculum. Finally, we answer some objections to this proposal (Section 4).