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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 7 No 3 (2005)

Zen and the Law School

Veronica L Taylor is the Henry M Jackson Professor of Law and Director, Asian Law Center, University of Washington.

This article asks a series of questions: How will Japanese law schools develop? How will their ethos and the values underpinning their instruction methods and modes of operation be expressed? What kind of insights and practices in legal education might emerge from Japan and are these likely to be distinctive? These questions are explored through the lens of pre-modern Zen Buddhism. I select areas of Japanese law school activity in which Zen approaches seem to intersect with contemporary understandings of problems and practice: (i) pedagogy, (ii) law school design, (iii) law school governance and (iv) institutional dynamism.

Neither the Zen masters nor this article offer prescriptions for what the values and practices of the Japanese law school ought to be. They simply remind us that values matter and that they  are routinely contested within law schools. The Zen metaphor also playfully reminds us that, although we may decry the limitations of Japanese law school design, we have limited power to reshape the world (or Japanese law schools) in our preferred image.

(2005) 7 Asian Law 293-309

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