Legal Education in Ireland – recent developments

Some interesting developments in Irish legal education to ponder…

The University of Limerick‘s School of Law (website) has been advertising its “Law Plus” option (admissions info). The modular course involves the familiar essential law courses (i.e. the foundation courses, which overlap with some of the ones you need for post-degree professional courses in Ireland), and the options can be chosen from the School of Law or from other schools (including Japanese, Irish traditional music, politics and more). There’s also one semester (of the four-year, i.e. eight-semester degree) spent in a work placement. Now, it would still be necessary for a student to take some of the optional semesters in certain law courses if they wanted to cover the professional course entry requirements – but certainly it seems possible to do this and also take optional law and non-law modules within the degree.

Download the brochure here (PDF).

The Kings Inns (responsible for the training of barristers) has announced that the BL (barrister-at-law) degree will be available on a part-time basis from next year. Fair is fair, I should welcome this – I have been a strong critic of the Inns and its decision a few years ago to get rid of the part-time course and substitute a full-time, 12k-in-fees course for it. This was a regressive step and the Inns were rightly criticised by others too for this, especially given the fact that non-law graduates could take the diploma (i.e. the ‘conversion course’) by evening classes but were then required to give up their job and then find 12k while being unable to work to take the course – a significant and inexplicable restriction on access to education and to the profession. However, the Inns should be congratulated on its decision (flagged quite a lot in the last few months, but officially announced last week) to reintroduce part-time study (alongside the new full-time course). The course will be taught on weekends over two years with occasional weekday events (presumably in the courts etc!). Not to say that further reforms are unnecessary – they certainly are – but this is cause for (some) celebration. In the context of the Competition Authority’s report on the legal profession, which included the education and training systems (discussed here), this is a step in the right direction.

My supervisor, Eoin O’Dell, has been blogging about the more general question of the relationship between legal education and the legal profession, and on future directions for law schools; he writes:

On the one hand, law schools must recognise the reality that many of our graduates go on to practice (this is more true in the US than in Ireland), and take this into account in constructing syllabi; on the other hand, the legal profession must recognise that there is more to a university law school than simply vocational training for practice, and that university research and research-driven – often interdisciplinary – teaching are valuable not merely instrumentally as providing potential tools in the toolkit of the practitioner but also in their own right.

Read his full post here and add your own comments.

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