On 27 February 2013 the Faculty hosted an important and lively debate on the motion 'Those who wish to Practise Law should not Study Law at University'. Sir Patrick Elias, Lord Justice of Appeal, who chaired the debate, kept order in a packed auditorium. Those present included sixth form students considering studying law at University, current students, distinguished legal practitioners, and academics from law and other disciplines. The motion was defeated by a narrow margin.
Lord Sumption argued in favour of the motion. His argument focused on the irrelevance of the academic study of Law to the life of the legal practitioner. He asserted that legal practice is primarily concerned with the analysis of facts and assessment of evidence rather than with the identification and interpretaion of the law. He considered that students at University would gain more from studying a subject which enabled them to develop skills of relevance to legal practice, and would benefit from a more rounded education which enabled them to engage vicariously with the work of great minds, rather than being cloistered from an early age in the study and practise of law.
Professor Graham Virgo argued against the motion. He rejected the argument that legal practice is just about facts and evidence, and drew the analogy with medical training which requires six years' academic and vocational training. He rejected the implicit assumption of Lord Sumption's argument that the legal profession is not a learned profession; rather it is one grounded on serious scholarship and intellectual engagement. He emphasised that law students engage with a variety of other disciplines as part of their studies and also that the study of law is a mirror to culture. He concluded by saying that, whilst the study of law at university is not the only preparation to become a legal practitioner, it is the best preparation.
A gallery of photographs is available from the event.
Approx. running time: 59 minutes
Other formats of this video are also available on the University Streaming Media Service.
You can download the debate using the link below: