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Nov 15, 2007

Korean Law School the Shakespearean Tragedy

Korean Law School the Shakespearean Tragedy

Appeared in the Korea Times on Nov. 16, 2007


Dear Professor Hayes: As a student of law I am very supportive of the law school system, since it may provide more opportunities to be an attorney, however, I highly doubt the system will create education that nurtures quality legal professionals. Why again are we going astray? Student at Kookmin University.

Dear Student: The Law School Bill declares, “Under the current system to nurture legal professionals, a gap exists between legal education and legal practices. Also the current system does not sufficiently nurture legal professionals who have expertise in preventing and addressing legal disputes. Therefore, the purpose of this amendment is to provide legal services which meet citizens’ various needs by introducing a U.S.-style law school system.”

The system will fail to meet the objective, since the implementation is comical at best and a Shakespearian tragedy at worst, since the Ministry of Education scoring system has little relationship to the objective, since they no idea of what the “gap . . . between legal education and legal practice is”; professors are unwilling and incapable of creating a system that will “nurture legal professionals who have expertise in preventing and addressing legal disputes”; and students are afraid to express to professors the need for change.

I have asked my students, legal professionals including judges, prosecutors, and attorneys what is needed in Korean legal education. The notion of most and when I press a little, all, is that the teaching method of professors needs to change. Professors need to teach in the Question and Answer Socratic Method.

In Korea, almost all professors simply lecture. Lectures are useless in “nurturing legal professionals” and are the reason for the “gap between legal education and legal practice.” I polled students at my school and only one professor, plus myself, regularly asks students questions and regularly uses real world examples in class. Of course this professor was a former judge and sadly will reach his retirement age and will no longer teach at my school.

The only solution to this Shakespearean tragedy is to require a large portion of professors to have J.D.s, or to have been judges, since all J.D. students have been “nurtured” in the Socratic Method and have the tools needed to “prevent and address” legal problems and all judges, because of their experience have the tools needed to quickly adapt to the Socratic Method, while professors with SJDs and PhDs had little to no exposure to the Socratic Method and have caused and nurtured for decades the “gap” between “legal education and reality.”

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com