Monday, 9 January 2012

Is the Axis of Legal Education Shifting to the East?

(Singapore old and new)
I've been researching the global context of legal education recently and the competition is becoming intense. The usual suspects are UK and US law schools, which compete for overseas students especially at the graduate level. Carole Silver has studied this area extensively.

However, I suspect we shall see the competition take on a new dimension. One finding of my research is that US-style legal education is being adopted in more and more countries notably in Asia, eg, China, Japan, and Korea. This is not so much to do with the superior quality of American legal education but rather its perceived emphasis on practice not theory. This is why in China the Ministry of Justice promotes the JM degree while the Education Ministry hews to the LLB.
Even the increasing pursuit of dual degrees depends on a reliance on US law schools, eg, Osgoode Hall/NYU, Windsor/Detroit Mercy, Cornell/Sorbonne. However, there is a new move afoot.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has had a long term tie with NYU but is now branching out to make itself a legal education hub for Asia. NUS has started a collaboration with Yale for double degrees in law and environment so that candidates can graduate with either a bachelor's degree from NUS or a master's from Yale Law School.

However, it is NUS's latest tie-up that is most interesting. It has signed an MOU with Tsinghua University in China for a 3+1 degree where students graduate with both an LLB and an LLM. Let's add into the mix Peking University Law School's LLM in Chinese Law which is taught in English, Tsinghua University Law School's LLM also taught in English, the Peking University School of Transnational Law (a member of LWOW) which teaches joint JD and JM law programs and we have a developing maturity of legal education that stands in competition with the UK and the US.

These schools realize they are part of a global community, not a parochial one as most US, and UK, law schools remain.  What is intriguing is how explicit they are. NUS depicts itself as a global university which will
Ensure its position as one of the world's leading universities, whose faculty are committed to research with global impact, through focusing on issues of global import and through global collaborations
Secure recognition as a great university of the highest global standing and play a leadership role in the Asian region as the pre-eminent university in Asia.
India is developing along these lines with the Jindal Global Law School which shares a global vision much like that of NUS. How many western universities have such an overt and explicit global strategy?

It is hypothesized that as Asia becomes stronger and more powerful it will become the hub of financial markets and more. This is quite possible as there is nothing secure in being a financial hub. In the last 300 years that honour has been shared by Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, London and New York.

It now looks as though legal education's hub could be shifted from the west to the east as well. Asia is prepared to think big and strategically. Both the ABA and the UK Legal Education and Training Review need to consider this as they plan their revisions. The question is will they do so?


One more item can be thrown into the mix here. MIT's new initiative MITx. MIT says
MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.
True, you don't get an MIT degree but you will get a certificate from MIT that says you have completed the course. Imagine, if you will, law were to be offered the same way......


1 comment:

jack said...

I've been researching the global context of legal education recently and the competition is becoming intense.
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