Legal Education in China: Globalizing with Chinese Characteristics

Published date01 July 2015
Date01 July 2015
Subject MatterEssays
Legal Education in China: Globalizing
with Chinese Characteristics
Cecily E. Baskir1
After presenting a brief history of Chinese legal education, this article describes current law training
programmes, innovative efforts to incorporate global perspectives into legal education, the birth of
Chinese clinical legal education, and some of these challenges facing traditional law schools and the
legal profession. It identifies efforts at reform, such as young experimental law schools with emphasis
on comparative law and skills training and the state’s new plan to reform and improve higher legal
education with greater emphasis on practical legal training, global law and training for rural legal workers.
The article concludes by recommending a number of additional responses to the challenges facing
legal education, including further reforms to fund quality skills training, expand global and comparative
approaches across different types of legal education, institute new incentives for faculty and teaching
innovations and reduce teaching workloads and class sizes.
The 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Cultural Revolution, and the Reform and
Opening Up Policy have each wrought dramatic transformations of the legal education landscape in
China, including the almost complete dismantling of legal education, followed by rebirth, reform and
tremendous growth since the 1970s.2 Yet as legal training and law degree programmes have swelled in
popularity and China plays an increasingly active role on the global stage, traditional Chinese legal
education institutions face a number of challenges. The degree programmes, for example, tend to be
academic and theoretical, leading to strains between the academy and the legal profession and to limited
employment opportunities for new law graduates. Faculty members often carry heavy teaching burdens
and lack incentives to improve teaching style or materials. Concerted attention to professionalism and
legal ethics is largely absent in the curriculum.
1 Attorney, Maryland and DC Bar, United States; Affiliated Transnational Faculty, Peking University School of Transnational Law;
and Lecturer, Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. This article is a short version of the author’s chapter in
the book Legal Education in Asia, Shuvro Prosun Sarker (ed.), Eleven International Publishing, The Hague, 2013. Permission from
the Eleven International Publishing is kindly acknowledged.
2 See infra subsection Increasing Globalization of Chinese Legal Education and Growth of Chinese Clinical Legal Education.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
2(2) 143–156
© 2015 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005815578516
Corresponding author:
Cecily E. Baskir, 4800 Hampden Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.

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