n Stellenbosch Law Review - The role of law faculties and law academics : academic education or qualification for practice?

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1016-4359



South African law faculties have a dual function: to produce law graduates who require the LLB qualification for entry to the profession; and a broader, educative, academic function that emphasises personal and professional development, intellectual endeavour, and strives to produce well-rounded law graduates. Likewise, there are two major stakeholders in the law faculty: the profession, and the university of which the law faculty forms part. How then do law academics regard their role? Again, there is a dual purpose: some academics with a practice background see the primary (even sole) outcome of legal education as the production of graduates ready for legal practice; other academics prefer to emphasise the academic aspects of legal education, including generic academic skills, with practical application to follow later during vocational training. Most law academics today (with rare exceptions) would probably concede and accept these dual functions, which quite naturally co-exist in a pervasive tension, which should be expected. This article considers the central tenets of these two imperatives, and argues that both are crucial for legal education, and are not mutually exclusive. The LLB is the statutory requirement for entry to legal practice, yet over-emphasis on qualification for practice in a truncated four-year programme has failed LLB graduates and the profession. The profession needs better educated, higher quality law graduates who are able to read, write and speak well, and who meet other important graduate attributes such as a capacity for critical analysis. A broader, formative legal education with a strong skills focus will better prepare graduates for practice in the private and public sector, requiring a high level of competence at admission and graduation stages to be able to complete it.

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