Conclusion

There will always be students who feel more comfortable with clear rules and certain answers than with questioning and critique, and who sympathize with those judges who feel 'compelled' to follow precedent whatever the justice of the outcome or decline to develop the law into hitherto untrodden territory.

These are the students who dislike overriding interests because they spoil the mirror-like perfection of the Land Register and agree that Lord Denning's idea that the constructive trust should be imposed wherever conscience and justice demand is very bad law indeed.

On the other hand, there will be students in your class who are so attracted to the idea of equity as the bearer of justice that they find it hard to let go of their illusions when presented with the reality in specific situations. Socio-legal knowledge can be effective in tempering both extremes. It forces the idealists to confront the subjectivity of 'conscience', very evident in Lord Denning's judgments, while making it impossible for the rule-lovers to ignore the differential impact of those rules on equally deserving claimants. Where once the victims could be ignored as unfortunate casualties of an otherwise worthy system, today our students' attachment to rights principles such as equality and respect for diversity makes it harder for them to dismiss the critique out of hand.

And what if some students resist? Remember that, if you integrate sociolegal perspectives into your learning outcomes, content and assessment, they are less likely to dismiss them as an irrelevant distraction to the real business of learning the law. Your aim should be to maintain the momentum across the whole syllabus, to keep asking those socio-legal questions in lectures and tutorials - Why is the law like this? Whose interests does it serve? Does it work well for everyone? Could it be improved - and, if so, how? - until the students learn to ask these questions automatically of every legal principle and decision they meet. And follow up with the How can we find out? (the methodological question), and How can we be sure of our analysis? (the evidential one).

You do not need to know all the answers yourself. The sheer volume of literature available in our teaching areas can be overwhelming. It is hard enough to stay on top of changes in the substantive law before even starting on the sociolegal scholarship. But no one expects you to be an expert in everything. When deciding what to include in your module, just play to your strengths and interests. Start with your areas of expertise and share your insights and enthusiasms with your students - surely, what is meant by 'research-led teaching'. If you have coursework, frame it around one of these topics. I know colleagues in other law schools who are housing or company law specialists whose students, presented with case studies in their areas, feel pleased and confident that they are working with cutting-edge scholarship. My students get stuck with the examples in this chapter. You will doubtless work out your own.

 
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