Practical Nous as the Aim of Legal Education?


  • Graham Ferris Nottingham Law School
  • Nick Johnson Nottingham Law School



There has been an implicit assumption that legal education should be about exposition and evaluation, and should reward facility in exposition and theoretical awareness. This theoretically based assumption generates a theory-induced blindness. Specifically, it obscures the dynamic relationship between law and legal practice, despite it being a familiar aspect of the world. The lawyer as rule entrepreneur is lost sight of. One alternative assumption about legal education would be that law is a game like activity; and legal education should be directed towards promoting those qualities that would enhance performance in this game. In this approach to legal education it would be practical nous that would be sought and rewarded, and such qualities as facility in exposition and theoretical awareness would receive recognition merely as qualities that can be ancillary to and elements of practical nous. Doctrinal legal education naturally pulls towards the first theory, and clinical legal education naturally pulls towards the second. We argue for a clearer awareness of the role of rule entrepreneurship in clinical programmes and in legal education generally.