The first blog entry of substance represents something that I am passionate about but should not be construed as a common theme for all other blog entries to be made in the future...it is just that you have to start somewhere and with something! I am not a procrastinator but rather a decision maker so the topic is legal education in Indonesia.
There has been some interesting interplay in the Jakarta Post of late about the state of reform of the Indonesian legal education sector or more aptly the lack of serious reform. Yet, all contributors to date, with their own personal agendas or preferences aside, miss some critical big picture perspectives that will ultimately determine the success or otherwise of reform in this field.
The easy part is to identify the shortcomings or failings generally or specifically, such as the lack of a self-sustaining academic environment that encourages the pursuit of academic excellence and innovation by academic staff and students through to the academic staff that 'moonlight' either with teaching at other institutions or consulting in both the public and private sectors.
Yet, what is lacking is a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated plan of attack. Reform of the legal education sector and the production of highly-skilled and qualified law graduates do not address the other core issues of reform, specifically of the legal institutions where these young and impressionable graduates are going to go. It is one thing to teach morals and legal ethics it is a completely different matter to then place these fresh graduates into an institutional setting which is in many cases irrevocably broken.
The problem is much greater than eradicating court mafia or the ability to purchase justice as is the philosophy that 'fixing' legal education will lead to an automatic eradication of all things bad in the courts, the Department of Law and Human Rights, the Offices of the Attorney General and the Public Prosecutor, and the legal profession overall. This is at best naive and at worst an under-estimation of the extent and scope of the problem.
In spite of the gloom and doom expressed by some, there are others who see hope...the reality is that law reform generally and reform of the legal education sector more explicitly is a work in progress where reforms will take time. The journey for some will always be too slow but there are great satisfactions to be had in small steps. For instance, many claim that the state of legal education is so bad that Indonesia will forever fail to compete in the international legal field. The often citing of the Litigan and Sipadan islands case where Indonesia lost a claim to Malaysia over the sovereignty of those islands.
Yet, when one looks at the success of Indonesian law schools, and particularly the Law Faculty of the University of Indonesia, in international law competitions this argument would seem to lose much of its sustainability. Indonesia has the current 'best oralist' in the world title from the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition, is the current champion of the Asia Cup competition, and also the current champion of the International Maritime Law Moot Arbitration competition. This in and of itself implies that the state of legal education in Indonesia is improving and that Indonesian law students are more than capable of competing and winning on the world stage; an achievement to be proud of...
Yes, reform is important across all sectors of Indonesian society. Reform of the legal education sector is also important but this is even more so the case as part of a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated policy and plan for implementation. Only time will tell how successful Indonesian law schools will be in reforming themselves and their institutions but it is fair to say that the process has begun and there are already some excellent successes to date.