Interview Rocío González, Legal Director and Legal Coordination at University of Montemorelos
The Impact Lawyers publishes a series of interviews with deans of the world's leading law schools. On this occasion, Rocío González Cepeda, Legal Director and Legal Coordination at University of Montemorelos (Mexico) answers the questions in this interview
1. What are the main differences between the teaching methods used in law studies in the world's leading universities that you are aware of?
It is important to answer the following questions in law teaching: what is the right method, which one will give the best result and will definitely help to achieve an improvement of the teaching-learning process? Generally speaking, a good method should meet certain guidelines:
1. The method should correspond to the objectives and to the scientific level of law.
2. It must ensure that, in parallel with the acquisition of knowledge, a system of skills and habits necessary for intellectual activity for the benefit of the community is developed.
3. It must stimulate a productive and creative attitude in the teaching-learning process, and motivate the development of cognitive interests.
4. Encourage cognitive activity and independence.
5. Develop qualities of character in keeping with pro-collective thinking.
6. To teach pupils to learn, to place them in a method of knowledge and scientific thought in which their interest in research is permanently linked.
7. To link the school with the community .
The application of different learning methods in the teaching of Law provides strategies for students to acquire knowledge, such as: Project based learning (PBL), learning based on case studies, learning based on simulation, learning based on experience (placing students in real scenarios), learning based on flipped classroom, learning based on cooperation (collaborative work), learning based on thinking (Thinking based learning); all these strategies or methodologies applied, lead to achieve the main objective which is: obtaining enriched knowledge, by the student of Law, based on experiences, service and problem solving.
2. In view of the ongoing legal transformation, do you think that different subjects, such as management, business management or technology skills, should be taught?
Education in general should be holistic. Particularly in the teaching of law, it is important that, in addition to disciplinary subjects, subjects that contribute to the social reality we live in are taught, students should acquire multidisciplinary knowledge, business management and technological skills are very important, developing a business plan as well as the use of technological tools are currently vital for the legal professional. Currently, due to the pandemic situation that afflicts the world, the use of technology has come to revolutionise the application of law, from the presentation of claims or complaints to trial hearings virtually; this leads us to the fact that it should be part of the curriculum of the future legal professional.
The competences that Law students should acquire, in addition to the main one which is litigation, should include "conflict resolution" through alternative mechanisms such as mediation, negotiation, conciliation, restorative justice... teaching law not only focused on litigation, but also on other methods that allow the legal professional to be a facilitator in conflict resolution.
3. In your opinion, is it advisable for law students to specialise in a specific area of law while still at university or, on the contrary, do you think that specialisation is a process that should be followed after graduation?
Law is as wide as the universe, in the vast majority of situations, the student does not know all the areas of Law, so it is important that while studying they obtain knowledge of each one and through professional practices (while studying) enrich their knowledge in real scenarios, so the student can find the area that is related to their future goals or that they are passionate about developing, seeking specialisation upon graduation (this works very well when the student has the conviction of being a lawyer, but does not know the areas of Law); However, there are students who know that they will dedicate themselves to a certain area of law, and I believe that a specialised curriculum would work here. There are institutions that offer a degree in Law with an emphasis on finance, social sciences or law, which allows the future lawyer to graduate with a certain speciality, which he or she will have to perfect upon graduation.
4. Do you think it is advisable for practising lawyers to be part of the teaching staff at universities, or do you think it is better for university professors to dedicate themselves exclusively to training?
I believe, from my personal experience, that the contribution is valuable and enriches the transmission of knowledge when the professors are in practice (professional practice); however, also those professors who focus exclusively on academia contribute to knowledge by linking students to legal research as an integral part of their training and awaken interest in research and the contribution to legal science.
5. On average, how long does it take a recent law graduate to find a job in your country?
It has been very quick, according to the experience we have with our graduates, is that where they do their social service, it helps them to link up with the institution.
6. In your opinion, which legal systems are more effective, those based on "Common Law" or those based on the influence of "Civil Law"?
I think that both have advantages and disadvantages... they are systems based according to the culture... because in Common Law it is based on particular matters and from there the general principle is elaborated, while in Civil Law it is based on general laws or rules applicable to particular cases. The former is very flexible, where the judge can decide on the basis of assessments that are not strictly legal, as is done in civil law.
7. What sanctions are imposed on students caught cheating at your university?
Our institution is based on values and we, from the school, promote personal ethics, but we intentionally include professional ethics in the curriculum. Dishonesty is punishable by law:
Article 52. On academic integrity. Students must not:
1. give, receive, request or provide academic information that is being evaluated, by any physical or electronic means.
2. Plagiarise, cheat or falsify in the preparation of work or research.
3. Denying or falsifying their identity.
Article 53. Alteration of records. Altering records, whether academic, student, financial or employment records, is considered a serious offence.
Article 90. Types of Sanctions. Students whose conduct contravenes the principles expressed in these regulations may be subject to the following sanctions: warning, reprimand, probation, suspension or loss of financial support and scholarship service, temporary suspension of studies, and/or non-acceptance.
Article 97. Grounds for suspension. Violation of the following articles of the Montemorelos University Student Regulations may be grounds for suspension. Articles: 3 Total abstention from substances harmful to health; 7 Sports not permitted; 43 Harassment; 44 Bullying; 46 Refraining from physical displays of affection; 47 Meeting in solitary places; 51 Reading literature harmful to the student; 52 Academic integrity; 53 Alteration of records; 54 Fraud and theft;
8. Finally, how would you define the principle of fairness?
It is to give to each what is due according to his or her conditions.