Teaching & Learning in South African Legal Education Post the Council on Higher Education (CHE) LLB Review
The Clinic’s Stephan van der Merwe was invited to speak at the Regional Teaching and Learning Conference of the Law Faculties of UCT, UWC and Stellenbosch University on 13 September 2018. The Conference theme was ‘Teaching & Learning in South African Legal Education Post the Council on Higher Education (CHE) LLB Review’, and included speakers like Judge Siraj Desai and mr Ettienne Barnard (LSSA Chairperson). Stephan presented a paper entitled “Inculcating ethics in the LLB curriculum: The question is not why, but how?”
His presentation considered how the recent CHE review of the LLB curriculum has presented South African law faculties with the opportunity to revisit the structure and content of their degree offering. In (at least) the case of the University of Stellenbosch, the CHE has, inter alia, recommended that the Faculty of Law place more emphasis on the transfer of various professional skills, as well as raising the social justice awareness of its students. Stephan suggested that one meaningful way to address these perceived lacunas, would be to formulate an intentional strategy to inculcate a stronger emphasis on teaching legal ethics in the existing LLB curriculum. The opportunity costs associated with the effort to increase the teaching of professional conduct and ethics, would however need to be justified by considering why this step should be taken. Engaging with the question of why ethics should feature strongly in the LLB syllabus, is also useful as a reminder of the significance of the second question that follows naturally from the first: how should this be done? This in turn brings into question the virtues of the prevailing approach of dedicated ethics components within specific Legal skills modules, as opposed to the more lauded pervasive or integrated approach. The presentation grappled with these important questions in the effort to contribute to the growing discourse on the ideal role of ethics in the LLB curriculum.