The Making of Professional Vandals: How Law Schools Degrade the Self
ANU College of Law Honours Thesis 2011
67 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 1 Jan 2013
Date Written: June 6, 2011
Upon graduation, Australian law students and their British and American counterparts are likely to be less influenced by morals, ethics or social and political consciousness when making career decisions than they were when they began their studies. Even those who do pursue their ideals will have been trained in a mode of reasoning which may undermine their efforts to contribute positively to global society. They will also become significantly more individualistic, wealth-driven and depressed.
I propose that a splitting of the self and professional identity causes these transformations. This split is fostered by the rationality/experience dualism that permeates legal education. I reveal how law schools construct this false dualism through insisting that a constricted form of reasoning represents the only route to legal knowledge. In doing so, law schools subjugate experiential knowledge – that is, knowledge associated with the emotion, lived experience, identity and values of the subject. Students consequently learn to subdue their ethics, feelings and personal opinions in preference for an externalised set of rules.
I evaluate student behaviours and attitudes that current literature has ignored. I reveal, for example, the way in which Law Students’ Societies reinforce ‘rational’ values. I also suggest that these societies are a conduit between the law school and the corporate legal world, and that they promote the view that ‘being a lawyer’ means ‘being a corporate lawyer.’
Ultimately I argue that law schools are steering students away from challenging systematic injustice, and toward accepting the domination of the powerless by a privileged elite identified with rationality.
*This paper is an ANU College of Law Honours Thesis and was supervised by Professor Margaret Thornton.
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