The use of a therapeutic jurisprudence approach to the teaching and learning of law to a new generation of law students in south africa



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THE USE OF A THERAPEUTIC JURISPRUDENCE APPROACH TO THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF LAW TO A NEW GENERATION OF LAW STUDENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
E Fourie* and E Coetzee**
There is a new generation of students, and we need to continue to expose them to the profession and make an effort to help them be more well-rounded – to help them think, to learn to be lawyers, to understand ethics, to work through the realities of having a professional role and having their own professional appreciation about what is important to them.1
1 Introduction
In rapidly changing social, economic and intellectual environments it is imperative that teaching and learning should transform themselves from being primarily concerned with the transmission of knowledge (learning about) to being primarily concerned with the practices of a knowledge domain (learning to be). Law lecturers are faced with a new generation of law students, many of whom may be the first in their families to enter university,2 and one of the important challenges that we face, when educating law students, is how to enable these students to take their place in a very important profession. To meet this challenge it is necessary to instill skills that will be beneficial to the profession, future clients and the community as a whole. We are endeavouring to do so through embracing a therapeutic jurisprudence approach that focuses on the well-being of the student, the client and the community. The concept is explained on the website of the International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence as follows:3
[T]herapeutic jurisprudence concentrates on the law's impact on emotional life and psychological wellbeing. It is a perspective that regards the law (rules of law, legal procedures, and roles of legal actors) itself as a social force that often produces therapeutic or anti-therapeutic consequences. It does not suggest that therapeutic concerns are more important than other consequences or factors, but it does suggest that the law's role as a potential therapeutic agent should be recognised and systematically studied.
The integration of therapeutic jurisprudence throughout the law student's studies, starting at orientation and continuing through the final-year clinical experience, will enhance the outcomes for all of the parties involved. A therapeutic jurisprudence approach combined with teaching and learning methods that include the transformation from a primary concern with the transmission of knowledge to a primary concern with the practices of a knowledge domain will enhance the student's interpersonal skills and writing and reading skills.4
Teaching methods include role-play, the purpose of which is to transform knowledge so that it becomes more than a set of half assimilated facts, thereby equipping students with enquiring minds and creating a learning environment that supports collaboration and encourages students to act purposefully in a professional environment.
This article discusses the teaching of first-generation students and how to overcome the existing social, cultural, economic and linguistic barriers, using a therapeutic jurisprudence approach, while upholding guiding values, such as integrity and respect for diversity and human dignity. The constitutional imperative of access to justice for all underlines the importance for law teachers to incorporate therapeutic jurisprudence in their teaching methods from the first year until completion of the students' studies. The therapeutic outcomes achieved by teaching through a therapeutic lens would contribute to the national goal of improving access to justice in our country.



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