Legal Education: It’s All About Emotions

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By Alex Aldridge on

As the legal education review continues, two Nottingham Law School lecturers are calling for a greater focus to be put on understanding students’ “emotions” and “feelings”.

“Students are taught what the law is, not how to feel about it,” reveals the school’s reader in education Rebecca Huxley-Binns (pictured below). “They should be equipped to deal with these thoughts and feelings from the start.”

In no way is this cheap publicity-seeking by Nottingham Law School. Rather, it’s a serious bid to help students’ “mental worlds”, as Huxley-Binns’ colleague Graham Ferris makes clear:

“The existing research in America has consistently demonstrated the surprisingly negative effects of legal education on the mental health of students. The effect has been serious and lasting, thus creating a problem for the legal profession captured by the description of it by one researcher as ‘unhappy, unhealthy, and unethical.'”

Ferris continues:

“However, the problems are not limited to one jurisdiction, and they are not peripheral. We need to focus on the nature of the student and how to facilitate making legal education personally meaningful to them. The importance of the mental world of the student and issues of self and identity need to be identified for practical purposes, so they can be doing well by being good.”

In conclusion, the pair urge law schools to teach more professional ethics courses, because: “our research findings point strongly towards an emphasis on the professional ethics of both the professions and the academic world in putting questions of values squarely on the agenda.”

It’s good to know that Nottingham Law School is putting its hefty fees to good use by funding these kind of ground-breaking studies.