Why lawyers should study political science, economics, sociology, and political philosophy

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Australian Academy of Law (AAL), the 90th anniversary of the Australian Law Journal (ALJ), and the 30th anniversary of the Pearce Report on Australian Law Schools, the AAL and ALJ are presenting a national conference on the future of Australian legal education. The conference is on this weekend 12-13 August, in Sydney.

The keynote address at the conference is being given by Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed to the Law School and Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago.

The program for the conference explains her address in these terms.

Why Lawyers Need a Broad Social Education

When German Jewish immigrant Ernst Freund was asked by University of Chicago’s President William Rainey Harper to design a law school for the university, in 1902, he proposed something highly unconventional. Freund was a lawyer who used his broad knowledge of American society and its flaws in his own legal work. He told Harper that lawyers would be tools of the status quo if they studied only law, as was the prevailing norm, under the influence of Harvard. Instead, they ought to study, in addition, political science, economics, sociology, and political philosophy — not in order to become academics, but in order to be lawyers who could think critically about society and guide it productively.

Professor Nussbaum’s ‘’lecture will support Freund’s vision and examine its achievements, its limits, and the current challenges against it.”

Professor Nussbaum will “argue that in this era of threatening populism we need critical and socially aware lawyers more than ever.”

Consistent with that message, the conference program lists topics covering Digital Technology and its impact on teaching, learning and legal practice, What makes a ‘good’ lawyer, Purposes and goals of legal education, Pedagogy and outcomes, New skills and essential knowledge for lawyers, Enhancing access to, and indigenous engagement in, legal education, Experiential learning, Making connections: law interacting across disciplines and international borders, and much more.

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