The use of texts continues to dominate both legal practice and legal education. Law students and legal professionals are obliged to learn and understand general rules and principles. There is no doubt that acquiring the skill to learn and manipulate texts is important for legal practice. It has, however, been recognised that the development of professional integrity in law schools and professional development programs has not been as effective as it could be. We hypothesised that this is because of the very limits of textual-based education: the development of the ethical imagination cannot rely solely on the skills acquired by an exclusively text-based education.
Our project was based on the hypothesis that both experiencing the production of art (including both visual and movement based art), and further reflecting upon that experience, including comparing it to other artistic productions, can lead to the more effective development of ethical perception amongst law students and legal professionals. In a similar (though not identical) way to that in which reading, producing and reflecting on literature can assist in developing ethical imagination, engaging in and reflecting upon art can, we hypothesise, assist persons to develop the capacity to see the many ethical dimensions of a given situation.
The first stage of this project brought together three artists (a visual-based artist, a movement-based artist, and a curator) with legal professionals, legal scholars and legal education (both tertiary and professional) policy makers.
The artists lead three integrated workshops, focusing on both the production and appreciation of visual and movement based artworks. These practice-led workshops were held in a local art gallery. The three artists were all experienced in working with persons who have had no or little exposure to the production and/or appreciation of visual and movement based art. Some of the activities held as part of these workshops were recorded and are displayed on the project's website.
The experiences acquired in these practice-led workshops will then form the foundation for reflection about the theoretical and practical implications for both tertiary and professional legal education. Theoretically speaking, we engaged with the literature examining: 1) the ethical imagination; 2) the role of the humanities and arts in the development of the ethical imagination; 3) and the aims, purposes and resources of tertiary legal education and professional development programs.
The participants in the practice-led workshops returned to Edinburgh to present papers at a mini-conference. The papers compared and contrasted their experiences in the practice-led workshops with the above-mentioned literature. The papers will be edited and collected together to form a book.
The participants also spent a day considering what policy implications may follow for legal education and professional development programs. Possibilities for enhancing tertiary legal education curricular with the use of non-textual resources will be of primary concern. A recommendations paper will be drafted and will form the foundation for dissemination in seminars with policy makers in legal education.
The project involved collaboration between legal scholars, legal professionals and legal education policy-makers in the UK and the US. Both countries have recently been witness to a number of books and reports criticising the capacity of legal education systems in those countries to contribute effectively to the development fo professional integrity amongst lawyers.
An initial network of law firms, galleries, academies and policy institutes in the UK and the US has been established. This project will allow the participants to consolidate and further develop a common research base. The workshops will thereby allow for an innovative investigation of how legal education can go beyond text.
When people view art objects in galleries, too often they rely on textual explanation - looking for the text in the catalogue to explain it and not letting the object explain itself. Some curators try to get people to engage the art object without text, to use their imagination to let the object speak to them and not be subsumed by the text. Lawyers face an analogous situation when they encounter events needing decision.
Law is a text-based discipline. There is no doubt that acquiring the skill to learn and manipulate texts is important for legal practice. But use of texts dominates both legal practice and education. Law students and legal professionals are obliged to learn and understand general rules and principles. That is both strength and a weakness. It is strength in that it enables decisions to be transparent and constrained by the text; it is a weakness in that decisions tend to be dominated by text, and situations are shoehorned into the text with stultifying results. The answer is sought within the text, viewing the situations law encounters through the optic of the text and thus manipulating them rather than transforming them, and not letting the situation speak to the text and the law, closing down on the ethical imagination which should be a vital part of legal practice. In 'Beyond Text in Legal Education' we explored ways of using other resources than text in legal education to encourage and develop that imagination.
The centre piece of project brought together three artists (a visual-based artist, a movement-based artist, and a curator) with legal professionals, legal scholars and legal education (both academic and professional) policy makers. The artists were all experienced in working with persons who have had no or little exposure to the production and/or appreciation of visual and movement-based art. They led a two day integrated workshop, focusing on both the production and appreciation of visual and movement-based artworks. The workshop was held, in part, in the University Art Gallery. We aimed, to develop non-textually, the skills that will enable lawyers to develop the ethical imagination, to experience the vulnerability of the situation and allow it to speak and help them move beyond the law by transforming it, but not destroying it.
The workshop was filmed and a 20 minute film is available, as well as still visual images, on the project website.
A pre-experiential workshop, consisting of a small group of philosophers, theologians, lawyers, met to discuss the conceptual and practical implications and, in the context of a provisional programme for the experiential workshop, to help refine that programme. After the experiential workshop, we held a workshop consisting of sociologists, philosophers, cognitive scientists with some knowledge of neuroscience to look at the cognitive and sociological processes involved. Three pre-circulated papers were used as a basis for discussion.
The experiences acquired in these practice-led workshops formed the foundation for reflection about the theoretical and practical implications for both academic and professional legal education. All the participants in the experiential workshops as well as some involved in the other workshops and others in the area met for this final conference. From this it is planned to produce two outputs, an edited collection and a digital book, available primarily over the web. This text would link directly to other project resources and to many other web-based resources, including digital assets such as
audio, video, graphics, photos, etc. This will be a key part of the dissemination programme. The project involved collaboration between legal scholars, professionals and education policy-makers in the UK and the US, as well as artists and academics in other fields. It will lead to an innovative investigation of how legal education can go beyond text.