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Spanish Law professors reject Bolonia Plan

22 de Julio de 2009

I am very interested to know the opinions of foreign lawyers and colleagues about the correct learning of Law.

Joan Amenós Álamo,
Profesor titular de Derecho Administrativo de la UAB

Perhaps you have heard about implementation in some European countries of the "Bolonia Plan". In short, this plan includes two aspects: 

First.- New structure for courses in higher education. That is: three (or four) years for a graduate; after, one or two courses for professional master or doctorate. 

Second.-Some governments have considered that Bolonia specially imposes a new way of  teaching. In general, they suggest a self-centered learning. So, the students should research by themselves and demonstrate their abilities and skills: writing, correct speaking, teamwork,... 

However, an important group of Spanish law lecturers disagree strongly with this implementation. They have published a manifesto, signed primarily by pre-eminent professors. This paper is available on the internet with the name Manifiesto de profesores de Derecho. They criticize principally two aspects: 

One.-Simple auxiliary techniques have been considered main subjects (in some Faculties). For example: 

  • Accountancy.
  • Drawing up contracts.
  • Business and leadership spirit, etc.

Two.-The student is treated more like a child because the more frequent systems to control performance are: 

  • Examination every week.
  • Short projects.
  • Weekly homework.

As a result, knowledge of new lawyers becomes soon obsolete. Actually, they are not authentic jurists, but only technical assistants. On the contrary, the lecturers who have signed the manifesto suggest another way. They insist on the importance of deep comprehension of Law hierarchy and legal conflict. They consider also that students need to know Law history and theory of legal arguments. They propose longer reading and longer projects. In conclusion, students assimilate information better and more deeply. Of course, they accept that older teaching systems should be replaced: the long and boring lecturer's speech is not the exclusive modus operandi. But Faculty of Law is not a college of secondary education. 

In conclusion, "back to the library" is absolutely necessary. I remember now a recent article in Time -June, 9, 2009- about the life of Sonia Sotomayor,  new Justice of American Supreme Court. Stephen Carter, her Yale Law school classmate, commented that "she was always in the library, always had a casebook under her arm".

The main virtue of the manifesto is the call against degradation in quality of Law studies. But, on the other hand, we should admit that this discredit was underway many  years ago. Bolonia is not the only culprit. In general, students have lost reading practice. For them, correct writing is surprisingly difficult, too. With these conditions, the abstract thinking -necessary for lawyers, jurists, businessmen or politics- is impossible.

We shouldn't forget either that an important part of lawyers and companies have pushed for a new guidance and new matters in Law studies. For instance, they remember the importance of negotiation techniques, marketing or economic valuation of legal solutions. The difficult challenge is to introduce these matters in a coherent program. Probably, we should concentrate these subjects in a short course after the main learning. 

At the moment, the implementation of the Bolonia Plan is unstoppable. But I think that its principles are going to have little impact on Spanish Law studies. Moreover, teachers have not enough training, time and tools (and perhaps they are not keen to change). The most important questions for our studies will be the future new national examination for lawyers and the possible changes in selection of high jurists -Judges, Public Prosecutors, Lawyers of Public Administration, Public notaries, etc. In these matters, the Bolonia plan has its head in the clouds.

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