Constitutional values, therapeutic jurisprudence and legal education in South Africa: Shaping our legal order
Law schools have a responsibility to remind law students that by studying law they have the power to transform thoughts, policies and lives, and that practising law is not just about financial rewards, but that its greatest reward is contributing to the betterment of society and ultimately to social change. The values and philosophies that law lecturers instil in law students can contribute to the legal order of the future; a legal order that supports a transformative South Africa. A need exists to bring legal education closer to the values enshrined in our Constitution. In addition to an extensive knowledge of legal principles, critical thinking and research skills, law students should critically engage with our constitutional values. The question remains: How do we transform legal education in South Africa? How do we change the way we teach law students? The introduction of concepts such as therapeutic jurisprudence enhanced by our constitutional values will ensure that we deliver graduates that display a commitment to our constitutional vales and an ability to engage critically with these values. It is important to establish a professional legal identity amongst students from their first year as this will assist in the development of a well-rounded graduate that can contribute to the legal order of the future. Letter writing and drafting skills, the value of plain language, moot court activities, alternative dispute resolution and clinical legal education provide opportunities to integrate valuable therapeutic jurisprudence principles into the curriculum and can allow students to critically engage with our constitutional values. By embodying these values they can improve the legal system, shape our legal order and promote progress toward an equal and free democratic society as envisaged by the Constitution.
Keywords: Therapeutic; jurisprudence; legal; education, transformative constitutionalism; preventative; lawyering; constitutional; values; professional legal identity