The Critical Lawyers' Handbook Volume 1
2: Critical Legal Education
One of the central concerns of this handbook is to promote major changes in legal education. This chapter, therefore, has a double purpose. First, (as indicated in the Introduction) to explore the ways in which traditional legal education can be said to be both a training in subordination and a training for subordination. To examine, in other words, how 'black-letter' doctrinal teaching trains students to accept the notion of law not only as a complex of neutral impartial rules but also as a set of legitimate hierarchies of authority - the teacher substituting for the judge as the high priest of truth. This is a training in and for subordination to law, judges, courts and the professional hierarchy and involves an attempt to destroy all critical thought in order to produce an alienated and subordinated person 'fit to practice'. Secondly, to interrogate the hidden and suppressed premises upon which all legal subject areas are based. The task here is to make visible those unacknowledged assumptions which lay behind the constitution of particular subjects, and in so doing to subvert their claims to political, economic and social neutrality. In other words, to force the dominant tradition and its supporters and exponents to engage in an intellectual and political debate about the present definition and substance of their particular subject area.
Our overriding objective is to empower teachers and students with the necessary critical weapons with which to mount an attack upon the 'citadel'. To this end, the following contributions provide a critique of the dominant methods of teaching and texts in a range of subject areas, and an alternative bibliography.
We see the handbook, in this respect, as providing an introduction to Pluto's Critical Supplements, part of the series Law and Social Theory. These supplements will offer an extensive critique of orthodoxy and will enable readers to pursue in greater depth the issues raised in the handbook. Books currently in preparation cover Torts, Land Law, Family Law, Contract, Trusts and Jurisprudence.
would encourage our readers to invite our authors to address seminars
in their own law departments where the issues raised can be discussed
and pressure developed for change (see author addresses, pp.224-5). Our
authors are also willing to provide copies of their teaching syllabuses
to those who would like to develop new courses in their own institutions
or to critique present courses.