Legal Education in the Next Future
The legal profession is facing a new working environment marked by increasing globalisation, competition, technological advances and deregulation. Furthermore, the economic perspective imposed by the European Union – which leads us to consider lawyers as business as well as professionals – is having a profound impact on national regulations. Nobody would doubt that the intellectual professions have experienced a deep transformation whereas competition rules – originally addressing more traditionally commercial ventures – have begun to penetrate in this different area. In this time of changes, the ‘qualitative entry restrictions’ – taking the form of minimum periods of education (and related educational standards), post-university vocational training and professional examinations – are maintaining a key role: ensuring that only practitioners with appropriate qualifications and competence can supply their legal services in the internal market.
The first part of this paper is devoted to analysis of the evolution and changes involving legal education in European countries, adopting a comparative and historical perspective. Member states have the right to regulate professional services, and they have the primary responsibility of defining the framework in which professionals operate; therefore, regulation of legal education is, first and foremost, a national matter. Nevertheless, a historical overview of the different systems shows that even if the starting points of the different traditions are very distant, sometimes even opposite, there are some common trends in the evolution that are going to create a harmonization in the field of legal education. In particular, every system is going to create a pathway to enter in the legal profession that ensures both academic studies and professional training, combining the theoretical knowledge with practical aspects.The second part of the paper focuses on the new role embraced by the law schools, arguing that the new mission of law schools is, at least in part, to contribute to the creation of legal practitioners. In fact, it seems that the division between exclusively academic theoretical study and post-university vocational training is today unsustainable. Considering the law schools’ new obligation to create both ‘theoretic and practical’ scholarship and the consequent shift towards more skills-based legal education, the second part of the paper will be devoted, in particular, to the analysis of the fundamental role that clinical legal education should play in this process of reform.
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