January 9th, 2021

Still radical, after all these years

The word "irrelevant"’ is widely used by student radicals these days, but it’s a good word, a handy weapon in the trial lawyer’s arsenal, and it aptly describes the relationship between the teaching program at almost any law college and the practice of law.

Because your training is so irrelevant, most of you will become irrelevant lawyers. You will become irrelevant because you will be doing the thing that is expected of you—upholding the status quo for a generous fee.

You will not have been trained to be critical of the status quo, to see its faults, to try to effect change. You will have been stuffed with a lot of meaningless jargon and will parrot to your clients and to the courts the old clichés and the 17th and 18th century principles which lawyers dutifully uphold and which when applied arrest the process of progressive change.

—William Deverell, 1968

I found these quotes in a work by Professor Pue about the history of UBC's law school. Apparently recorded from a speech I'd made. To whom? Likely a graduating class. (I can hear the professors booing.)

In any event, they sound as true today as they did 54 years ago.

This is the commentary by Professor W. Wesley Pue that prompted him to quote me:

From Chapter 11: The Modern Web of Legal Education

Even as the University of British Columbia law faculty was settling into a comfortable routine, new currents were welling up in the world of legal ideas and Canadian society was undergoing massive change. Both the professional and the scholarly context of legal training were being transformed. Massive growth of the university sector, the increasing, endemic "professionalization" of Canadian society, and the beginnings of the many cultural revolutions known retrospectively simply as The Sixties were just around the corner. Calls for greater "relevance" in law school, student choice, and an expanded curriculum were soon heard.

Copyright 1995 The University of British Columbia Faculty of Law (http://www.law.ubc.ca/). All rights reserved.

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