There is nothing so practical as good theory
– Kurt Lewin
Public legal education began in Canada during the late 1960s at a time when the roles and performance of many of our social institutions were being questioned. Initially the very idea of public legal education was considered radical. Indeed dangerous. After all, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Dangerous to the individual who might make decisions that would have catastrophic consequences. Dangerous to the legal profession because PLE threatened the profession’s monopoly over the law and legal processes and the power that went with that monopoly.
In the ensuing years, public legal education has proven to be not only an empty threat to the legal profession but a useful to it. PLE facilitates better access to lawyers and helps them management of their clients’ expectations better.
- So what happened? Did the original radical project get co-opted by the legal establishment? If so, why? How?
- What has changed in society and PLE since the sixties and what has stayed the same?
- Does PLE still have a radical mission?
While there is little work on the theoretical foundations of PLE, what exploration there has been suggests that this is a fruitful field for further investigation.