Time flies, or Bourdieu-ing on the ridiculous

It has been six months  since I posted. Why so long? Short answer- focus, both gained and lost. Longer answer…

September- January I was working on two MRes modules- one on interviewing, one on social constructionist approaches. Both were very interesting, and more importantly useful, but they took up a lot of time. There were the 6 days for the module classes themselves. Then there was the reading between classes. And then there was the time spent on the assignments. All this meant I wasn’t looking ‘directly’ at the PhD and so did not feel I had much to write here.

Of course, method is a direct part of the PhD. The modules were a good reminder of that. I have tended in the past to honour method in the breach- I blame my Realist school International Politics training 😉 But the discussions, and the reading, and the challenge- difficulty indeed- of the assignments brought home to me the need for a clearer understanding of interview technique, analytical approaches, and wider theories. So I am doing much more reading on and reflecting in these areas, alongside the ‘topic’ reading and thinking connected to the PhD.

One of the ideas frequently referred to in the methods literature is the ‘analytical memo’ / research diary / field notes. This blog was meant to be something like that- at least to function as a public space to share ideas, get ideas etc- and I’ll be trying to get back to that. I’ll also be keeping a memo book, some of which will make it into these posts…

So, focus here needs to be regained. Perhaps I can put up quick posts on what I’ve read, news stories etc. It’s all good writing practice, if nothing else!

Brief notes on the LERN conference, Open University, 26th September

Futures of legal education- OU- 26/09/2017

This was a very useful and interesting conference. Not much networking for me, as I am still pretty new to this area- but I did make a couple of useful contacts!

I’d say my main impression- as reflected on by Fiona Cownie- was that responses to changes in HE and legal education vary very much according to ‘type’ of institution. Post-92 speakers seemed much more concerned and much readier to make changes in response to the incoming Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE.) Radical change may well not be on the horizon for some, but for others it’s very much a feature. The latitude to choose degree of change may well depend on how you see your students, their expectations, and the demands of your management.

Certainly the HERA 2017 can be presented as ‘codifying’ changes already here, and the OfS could well be a cautious and ‘continuity’ minded body- as argued by Fiona Cownie. I agree with her call for a ‘pragmatic and principled’ response. Pragmatism, to me, means taking professional and government demands seriously; principle means that those demands must be set in the context of the university’s role in personal development not merely job preparation.

Clinical legal education was discussed as one way to creatively respond to the challenges. It would allow teaching to align with / refer to the SQE, as well as providing interesting and authentic learning. CLE could not, one speaker said, take on the whole role of responding to the SQE- but it could provide a way to cover writing skills.

There was concern over the way that the SQE might make the law degree more practice oriented, crowding out theory and reflection. Can the law degree make people ‘SQE ready?’ Fiona argued no, and I would agree- and not just because to do so would be bad for the law degree.

As Patricia Leighton noted, we see much the same kinds of arguments that have been going on in legal education for the past 160 years! Legal education research should focus on these questions, but also look to see what research would be useful to the sector. One area which was referred to was ‘mapping’ the provision of legal education across sectors- schools, FE, HE, public and private etc. A challenging task, Antony Bradney said, given the sheer scale of legal education. My research may contribute in a small way to this, if I ‘map’ examples of PLE.

I had to leave before the end. The last substantive discussion I caught was around Brexit- the ghost at the feast for the next few years…

So what?

That is the question! I sent in an outline history of HE to my supervisors. One of them got back with the comment that it was interesting- but what would be really important would be how HE relates to legal education, and what that all means for the thesis question. Or, more bluntly, ‘so what?’

I’m working on a rough outline of legal education this month, which will go some way to answering the “so what?” The structures and problems of HE pass on to HE based legal education- that is why a history of HE is important- and the structures and problems of legal education themselves play a part, interacting with the wider HE context.

The real, deep ‘so what’ will be dealt with when I turn to the model / theory element. I think that the nature of law itself- at least what legal academics understand it to be- will be the main element in linking HE, legal education, and the question of what legal academics feel-

they can do

they want to do

and how this relates to whether they can or want to do PLE

First hurdle cleared

Yesterday I got a letter from the Research Degrees Committee (RDC), informing me that my RF1 had been accepted with no conditions. This means that I can now progress to the next stage, the RF2.

Whilst the RF2 is a light-touch initial assessment, it’s good to have it done and be free to move on.

The Assessor did recommend I create a timetable- something I had thought of doing. I have another 6 years or so to complete within the permitted time, but hope to do it earlier than that.

My next ‘target date’ is February 2018- my first annual review. By then I hope to have:

  • the structure sorted
  • draft chapters written
  • ethics approval for interviews
  • arrangements in place to do interviews

I can then go on to conduct some interviews and do initial analysis ready for the RF2 in February 2019. The RF2 is a much more serious business than the RF1. It involves preparing preparing a 6000 word report and presenting to an assessment panel. If that goes well, I will be permitted to progress to examination.

So, more reading to come! And now, the writing too.

 

Did I clear the hurdle?…

Well, I’m sort of heading for it in very slow motion. The RF1 forms are in, an assessor is being selected, and they will report back to the appropriate committee later this month. The most common outcome is ‘progress to next stage with minor amendments’- sort of lightly clipping the hurdle as you clear it.

The main thing for me now is to keep going. There’s no deadline now until the first annual review in February, so I have to set targets for myself. These will revolve around reading for the most part, but I also want to work on my method and related ethics forms, so that I can start on interviews as soon as is practicable.

The reading right now is vols 3 and 4 of the History of the University in Europe. Not all of them, anymore than I read the whole of vols 1 and 2! I’ve read- and will read- the ‘Themes’ and ‘Patterns’ chapters, along with such chapters on teaching and law faculties as seem relevant. They’ve been very interesting- and useful- so far, especially in pointing up the varied roles and purposes chosen by or for universities over time.

I’ve signed up for two methods modules, to be done in September-December, so will also be doing reading relevant to that aspect of the research. And, post-election, reading on the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, or whatever may replace it!

I will of course post from the other side of the hurdle… in the meantime, planning grids and the history of higher education it is!

Sure, the method

Method was an issue in my LLM, and I don’t want it to be one in my PhD. I’m taking a couple of MRes modules in the Autumn to help with that, and putting a lot of thought into the method bit of the RF1.

Jess Guth shared a useful analogy with me. Methodology is like a style of cooking- vegan say- and method is then a particular recipe. You set out your cuisine (approach, theory, etc) and then provide details of how you’re going to use it in this instance.

Two things come from this. One, I find it helpful to think of ‘the method bit’ as ‘model + method’; two, networking really works- thanks Jess!

In case you’re wondering, this all obviously leads to a hint of Bourdieu, a bit of Cowney, a dash of Bradney….

The first hurdle- RF1

The first assessment point in the SHU PhD journey is the RF1. It’s a relatively light touch assessment, designed to see that a project is viable.

My RF1 form is due in on 31st May. I’ve sent a draft to my supervisors, and present it here. Do comment should you feel so inclined 🙂

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Research context

Public legal education (PLE) entails the provision of education in legal processes, rights, and responsibilities to the lay public[1] and focuses on the knowledge and skills required for participation in the legal system.[2] It can be thought of as the legal equivalent of  public health education or public understanding of science work.

There are several legal and policy drivers relating to PLE. At the most general level, the rule of law requires that people know- or they can find out about- the law as it applies to them.[3]

The cuts to legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO 2012) has seen an increased number of self-represented litigants, and associated cuts to advice services has made getting legal information and support harder.[4]

The potential creation of an online court, as envisioned in the 2015 Briggs report[5], would require  litigants to navigate the complexities of both  IT systems and the court system .

Additionally, cuts to legal aid and advice have potentially damaging implications for  individuals and the system itself; a lack of legal knowledge acts as a barrier to vindicating rights[6] and can contribute to difficulties with using the legal system.[7] This lack of knowledge can lead to inefficient uses of the legal system, or indeed non-use .[8]

PLE is one intervention in response to these changes, offering people the knowledge they need for self-advocacy and agency.[9]

There is no system for PLE, LASPO 2012 having abolished the provisions for PLE in the Access to Justice Act 1999. The Legal Services Act 2007 places a responsibility for PLE on the legal professions, and LASPO 2012 gave the Lord Chancellor the ability to support PLE. [8]

Universities, law schools, and legal  academics

In government policy universities are charged with supporting the economy and producing skilled workers.[11] New public management, the shift to fee based financing, and the development of consumerism have contributed to this shift in policy and emphasis. [12]

Historically the mission of universities has been defined in terms of two or three elements- research and teaching, sometimes joined by service.[13] Recent work on the ‘third mission’ (service) has (re)-opened community engagement and other forms of service as an area of work for universities.[14]

This possibility for service is challenged by the ongoing emphasis on research and teaching metrics[15] and the economic role of universities.[16]

Law schools are subject to the same range of social and political pressures as their parent institutions[17]. If student satisfaction, degree completion rates, or REF results are the key measures, there are implications for the feasibility of undertaking  PLE or other ‘external’ activities which do not support those measured activities.

Many legal academics see themselves as committed to liberal education[18] and its values of open enquiry free of practical demands. This could mean they are less inclined to PLE because it falls outside of the perceived roles of themselves  and  the university. [19]  However, some legal academics see PLE as an element of the work of the law school, not as a direct provider of PLE but as a source of information and support.[20]

Legal academics’ conceptions of law as a discipline [21] are a potential barrier to  engagement with PLE., if Law  is seen either as an autonomous way of reasoning about specific forms of activity[22] or when it is seen as a vehicle for the aims of liberal education discussed above.[23] In both cases the ‘proper’ role of law school and legal academics does not include engagement with the ‘outside’ world except as an object of study or the material of a case.

Research problem

Whilst PLE can be thought of as the legal equivalent of public science and health education, it is by comparison underdeveloped- it was described as inadequate by the Bach Commission[24] report. Twining’s call for greater involvement by legal academics in public legal education[25] does not seem to have been met in any systematic way in England.

This research sets out to understand why this is so. It will analyse why there has not been a wider and more systematic response  by legal academics to the needs and challenges presented by the generally low level of popular legal knowledge, challenges compounded by changes in the legal aid and court systems. In particular it will identify and explore the policy,practice, and disciplinary pressures which act as barriers to engagement in activities seen to be outside the ‘core’ research and teaching mission of universities and academics.

Methodology

As part of the literature review, I will search the academic and grey literature, focusing on these areas-

  • Nature and practice of public engagement- focus on health, science, and law
  • Policy context- legal aid, advice provision, court systems, higher education- role of universities and academics
  • Disciplinary context- law as academic discipline, law within the university, law and professions
  • Individual context- views of legal academics on their role

Legal academics will be approached to take part in semi-structured interviews. They will be selected so that the sample is representative in terms of:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • University ‘type’- Russell Group, University Alliance etc

Interviews will be transcribed verbatim and transcripts will be coded using NVIVO, and analysed following a grounded theory approach.

Summary

The pervasive presence of law means that everyone has a need to understand how the law affects them. In addition, recent cuts to advice and legal aid and changes in court systems have made the challenges of using the court system much greater.

PLE is as way of responding to these challenges and needs, and presents an opportunity for legal academics and their law schools, but there is no systematic provision of PLE by universities. [26] This research sets out to develop a theory as to  why this is so, based on analysis of the literature on PLE and the interview responses of a range of legal academics.

References and Bibliography

Amnesty International, Cuts that hurt (2016) Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur45/4936/2016/en/

J Axtell, Wisdom’s workshop: the rise of the modern university (Princeton UP 2016)

Ronald Barnett, Understanding the university: institution, ideas, possibilities (Routledge 2016)

——————— ‘Constructing the university: towards a social philosophy of higher education’ (2017) 49 (1) Educational Philosophy and Theory 78

Tom Bingham, The rule of law (Penguin 2011)

Brian Bix, ‘Law as an autonomous discipline’ in Mark Tushnet and Peter Cane (eds) Oxford handbook of legal studies (OUP 2005)

Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas, What are universities for? (2011) Retrieved from http://www.leru.org/files/general/%E2%80%A2What%20are%20universities%20for%20(September%202008).pdf  ;

Anthony Bradney, ‘Law as a parasitic discipline’ (1998) 25 (1) Journal of law and society 71

———————— Conversations, choices and chances (Hart 2003)

M Briggs (2016) Civil Courts Structure Review: Final Report Retrieved from https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/civil-courts-structure-review-final-report/

Roger Brownsword ‘Law schools for lawyers, citizens and people’ in Fiona Cownie (ed) The law school : global issues, local questions (Ashgate 1999)

Alexy Buck, Pascoe Pleasence and Nigel Balmer, ‘Do citizens know how to deal with legal issues? Some empirical insights’ (2008) 37 (4) Jnl Soc Pol 661

Stefan Collini, Speaking of universities (Verso 2017)

Fiona Cownie (ed) The law school : global issues, local questions (Ashgate 1999)

————————- Legal academics (Hart 2004)

Alan Cribb and Sharon Gewirtz, ‘ The hollowed-out university? A critical analysis of changing institutional and academic norms in UK higher education’ (2013) 34 (3) Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 338

Frank Dignan, Richard Grimes and Rebecca Parker, ‘Pro bono and clinical work in law schools: summary and analysis’ (2017) 4 (1)  Asian Journal of Legal Education 1

E3M, Fostering and measuring ‘third mission’ in higher education institutions Retrieved from http://e3mproject.eu/Green%20paper-p.pdf

The Fabian Society (2016) The crisis in the justice system in England and Wales Retrieved from http://www.fabians.org.uk/access-to-justice-the-bach-commission/

Legal Action Group, Towards a national strategy for public legal education (Legal Action Group 2004)

————————— Public legal education: a proposal for development (Legal Action Group 2005)

Marta Lenartowicz, ‘The nature of the university’ (2015) 69 Higher education 947

PLEAS Task Force, Developing capable citizens: the role of public legal education (PLEAS Task Force 2007)

Francine Rochford, ‘Is there any clear idea of a university?’ (2006) 28 (2) Journal of higher education policy and management 14

John Scott, ‘The mission of the university: medieval to postmodern transformations’ (2006) 77 (1) The journal of higher education 1

Mathias Siems and Daithi MacSithigh, ‘Mapping legal research’ (2012) 71 (3) Cambridge law journal 651

Margaret Thornton, Privatizing the public university: the case of law (Routledge 2007)

Christopher Tomlins, ‘Framing the field’ (200) 34 (4) Law and society review 911

Mark Tushnet and Peter Cane (eds) Oxford handbook of legal studies (OUP 2005)

William Twining, Blackstone’s tower (Sweet and Maxwell 1994)

———————‘Thinking about law schools: Rutland reviewed’ (1998) 25 (1) Journal of law and society 1

———————- ‘ The SLS Centenary Lecture Punching our weight? Legal scholarship and public understanding’ (2009) 29 (4) Legal studies  519

 

Notes

[1] PLEAS Task Force, Developing capable citizens: the role of public legal education (PLEAS Task Force 2007) 9; Frank Dignan, Richard Grimes and Rebecca Parker, ‘Pro bono and clinical work in law schools: summary and analysis’ (2017) 4 (1)  Asian Journal of Legal Education 1, 3; Alexy Buck, Pascoe Pleasence, Nigel Balmer, ‘Do citizens know how to deal with legal issues? Some empirical insights’ (2008) 37 (4) Jnl Soc Pol 661, 662

[2] Legal Action Group, Public legal education: a proposal for development (Legal Action Group 2005) 3, 9

[3] Legal Action Group, Towards a national strategy for public legal education (Legal Action Group 2004) 1; Tom Bingham, The rule of law (Penguin 2011) c3

[4] Amnesty International, Cuts that hurt (2016) Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur45/4936/2016/en/ 6, 36

[5] M Briggs (2016) Civil Courts Structure Review: Final Report Retrieved from https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/civil-courts-structure-review-final-report/

[6] Legal Action Group n2 1-2

[7] Legal Action Group n2 2

[8] PLEAS Task Force n1 7

[9] Legal Action Group n2 2

[10] Removal of CLS- Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 Sch.5(1) para.51(a); role of Lord Chancellor in PLE – Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 s1 (3)

[11] Alan Cribb and Sharon Gewirtz, ‘ The hollowed-out university? A critical analysis of changing institutional and academic norms in UK higher education’ (2013) 34 (3) Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 338, 341; Stefan Collini, Speaking of universities (Verso 2017) 23

[12] Ronald Barnett, ‘Constructing the university: towards a social philosophy of higher education’ (2017) 49 (1) Educational Philosophy and Theory 78, 84-85; Stefan Collini n13 21; R Brownsword ‘Law schools for lawyers, citizens and people’ in Fiona Cownie (ed) The law school : global issues, local questions (Ashgate 1999) 63

[13] Marta Lenartowicz, ‘The nature of the university'(2015) 69 Higher education 947, 951; John Scott, ‘The mission of the university: medieval to postmodern transformations’ (2006) 77 (1) The journal of higher education 1, 2; on universities in general see J Axtell  , Wisdom’s workshop: the rise of the modern university (Princeton UP 2016); Ronald Barnett, Understanding the university: institution, ideas, possibilities (Routledge 2016)

[14] See for example E3M, Fostering and measuring ‘third mission’ in higher education institutions Retrieved from http://e3mproject.eu/Green%20paper-p.pdf

[15] Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas, What are universities for? (2011) Retrieved from http://www.leru.org/files/general/%E2%80%A2What%20are%20universities%20for%20(September%202008).pdf ; Anthony Bradney, Conversations, choices and chances (Hart 2003) 19;

[16] Francine Rochford, ‘Is there any clear idea of a university’ (2006) 28 (2) Journal of higher education policy and management 147, 156

[17] Fiona Cownie n12; Anthony Bradney n15; Margaret Thornton, Privatizing the public university: the case of law (Routledge 2007)

[18] Fiona Cownie, Legal academics (Hart 2004) 76; Anthony Bradney n15 28, 31

[19] Anthony Bradney n15 125; William Twining, ‘Thinking about law schools: Rutland reviewed’ (1998) 25 (1) Journal of law and society 1, 6

[20] William Twining n19 12; see William Twining, Blackstone’s tower (Sweet and Maxwell 1994) for Twining’s detailed account of his ‘multifunctional’ law school model

[21] See Mathias Siems and Daithi MacSithigh, ‘Mapping legal research’ (2012) 71 (3) Cambridge law journal 651 and Christopher Tomlins, ‘Framing the field’ (200) 34 (4) Law and society review 911 for a general discussion of law as a discipline

[22] See for example Brian Bix, ‘Law as an autonomous discipline’ in Mark Tushnet and Peter Cane (eds) Oxford handbook of legal studies (OUP 2005) 985-6

[23] See for example Anthony Bradney, ‘Law as a parasitic discipline’ (1998) 25 (1) Journal of law and society 71

[24] The Fabian Society (2016) The crisis in the justice system in England and Wales Retrieved from http://www.fabians.org.uk/access-to-justice-the-bach-commission/

[25] William Twining, ‘ The SLS Centenary Lecture Punching our weight? Legal scholarship and public understanding’ (2009) 29 (4) Legal studies  519

[26] see the following for examples of small-scale local university PLE activity- Dawn Watkins and Maribel Canto-Lopez, ‘Working with law students to develop legal literacy materials’ (2016) 50 (2) The law teacher 195; Paul McKeown and Sarah Morse, ‘Litigants in person: is there a role for higher education?’ (2015) 49 (1) The law teacher 122; Frank Dignan, Richard Grimes and Rebecca Parker n8