Law between Tradition and Innovation: a Talk with Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford

endicotttWith the kind cooperation of RICCARDO CARNEVALE –  A few weeks ago LUISS students had the opportunity to attend a lecture with Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Oxford, organized by Gino Scaccia, Full Professor of Constitutional Law at LUISS University, for the students currently taking part to his course.

After the lecture, we had the opportunity to ask a few more questions to the distinguished lecturer…

Professor Timothy Endicott, you are the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Oxford, in your opinion what are the requirements to be a good lawyer in the UK?

The most important requirements are the same as for any lawyer: the ability to read really fast, to write really well, and to defend an argument on a difficult and controversial question of law. And of course, any lawyer needs a deep familiarity with the law of his or her system. For a lawyer in the UK, that includes the law of the European Union, and of the European Convention on Human Rights. I would add that today, UK lawyers need to be able to work with lawyers in other jurisdictions. UK lawyers today are not able to serve their clients well, if they cannot grasp what is going on in other countries outside Europe.

As marked by our Prof. Scaccia, your preparation is polyhedral and does not exclusively focus on Law, so may I ask how this has affected your professional life as an  English jurist?

A lawyer can gain basic skills of reading, writing, and argumentation from many other areas of study, although those skills have to be developed further and in specific ways in law school. I think that education in other fields (whether in the humanities, or the social sciences, or the natural sciences) adds extra dimensions to work as a lawyer.

You gratuaded summa cum laude at Harvard with a BA in Classics and English and you studied Law at the University of Toronto, then completed a PhD in Legal Philosophy at Oxford. How important do you think your BA has been when training as a jurist?

My own previous education has affected my work as a jurist in a particular way: Having studied linguistics in university, I developed a special interest in the ways in which lawyers use language.

What attitude should  a Dean of Law have within the context of a university as big as yours?

Any law school needs to recruit good academics and good students, and put them together to see what good things they can do. So my main objectives as a Dean have been to recruit good people and provide them with good facilities. In a large university like Oxford, there are special opportunities to create connections between people working in different subject areas, and over the past few years my colleagues and I have created new forms of interdisciplinary collaboration between lawyers and economists, political scientists, environmentalists, and academics working on international development, and with Oxford’s new School of Government.

Civil Law and Common Law, two different legal realities but, as seen in your seminar, they sometimes have more in common than we may think.It seemed that with the advent of the EU, UK was conforming its laws with treaties and directives, but in recent times there seems to be a diversion again. May I ask what is  your opinion on this?

European Union law has direct effect according to its terms in UK law. In the 1970s, English lawyers may have thought that EU law was a strange, foreign subject, but now it is definitely part of English law. But there are new political tensions over the UK’s membership in the EU. The important connections between law and politics in the UK mean that because many of the current politicians are lawyers, they have had an education in EU law, and have come to view it as part of their own community’s law, and not as a foreign imposition. I am not saying that every UK lawyer is in favour of the EU! But legal education has at least given lawyers familiarity with the life of the European Union.

I conclude questions regarding the academic field, scope. Moving on to something else, how was your stay here in Rome at LUISS?

A great pleasure! It was a privilege to talk to Professor Scaccia and his colleagues, and the doctoral students, about their work and about the subject of my lectures. And how fortunate all of you are at LUISS, both students and faculty, to be living and working in one of the most amazing cities in the world- in the midst of an entire complex world of beautiful buildings and gardens and galleries and fountains, built and rebuilt with great ingenuity, over thousands of years. It is great to visit, and when you are all very busy I hope you don’t forget to enjoy Rome!

Did our Professors welcome you in a warm way?

Yes, with Roman hospitality. Professor Scaccia arranged a visit to the Constitutional Court which was a memorable experience. And as well as good company, I have also enjoyed some wonderful food!

Did the students show preparation for your lecture?

Yes, I had some excellent questions from students, especially from doctoral students. It is always rewarding for a teacher, when students ask difficult questions during a lecture- it shows that they are thinking about the subject.

From your brief experience here, how would you rate our universities from an academic point of view?

It is of course difficult to draw intelligent conclusions from a very short visit. But I would say that the interactions that I have been able to have with students here and with the members of the faculty are just what I would expect in one of the top British universities. I hope that colleagues who visit Oxford have such a positive experience.

Would you come back to hold a new lecture to our students?



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