Re/writing Skills Training in Law Schools - Legal Literacy Revisited

Dean Bell, Penelope Pether
1998 Legal education review  
In law, language is not mere style; it is itself the law. 1 INTRODUCTION This article proposes an interdisciplinary, theoretically informed approach to literacy and language skills in legal education. Both of the authors are legal scholars and law teachers with backgrounds in English studies and literary theory, and we bring these perspectives to bear on the perennial problem of introducing both developmental and remedial language tuition into law schools. The article is informed by a model of
more » ... anguage and literacy which views written legal communication skills as the acquisition of competence in, and initiation into, the codes of a culture of specialist discursive practices. That is, it holds that law is made in its languages, rather than that law is a concrete given which language merely describes or articulates, and it views literacy critically and contextually, rather than as a virtue measured against a fixed and objective standard. The article proceeds from a synthesis of recent scholarship from a number of disciplines, including professional studies, sociology, education, teaching English as a second language, linguistics and, of course, law. 2 Our research was informed by a perceived need to put legal writing skills and literacy in the context of current salient issues in higher education. In particular, the authors are interested in how literacy and writing skills can be used to advance the principle of Bell and Pether: Re/writing Skills Training in Law Schools -Legal Literacy Revisi Some theorists have investigated the relationship between writing and close, active reading skills. 78 They argue that readers who passively consume texts are unable to "imagine reading possibilities" 79a failure which almost invariably leads to poorly developed communication skills because of an inability to imagine their own writing as "read". Reader response theory provides a structure for these ideas -it proposes that students can "become better writers by becoming more self-conscious and critical
doi:10.53300/001c.6052 fatcat:vekgcmtgpne6vc5dhthbqpucvu