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Legal Education Digest

Legal Education Digest
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Barker, D --- "From the Editor" [2012] LegEdDig 16; (2012) 20(2) Legal Education Digest 3


The year 2012 is proving an interesting year for legal education particularly in England and Wales which is going through the process of a far-reaching Review of Legal Education and Training. This was a major point of interest during the Association of Law Teachers Annual Conference at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University at the beginning of April, a conference at which I was privileged to be able to present a paper on the same topic. The Review was the subject of a further one day conference on 12 June 2012 at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies organised by the Society of Legal Scholars entitled ‘Facing the Future: Developing Academic Legal Education’. As this editorial is being written, law academics across Australia and New Zealand are preparing for the 2012 ALTA Conference scheduled to take place at the University of Sydney during the period14 July. It has already received a great deal of advanced publicity in the media due to the fact that the opening is being undertaken by Hon. Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister.

For the Digest this edition is also special as it celebrates twenty years of its first publication this year. To mark the occasion, and with it the celebration of the foundation of the Centre for Legal Education, there is an account of its early activities contributed by the foundation Director of the Centre, Christopher Roper AM.

The book review focuses on ‘At the Edge of Law’ by Andrew Francis which incorporates an account of those operating outside the normal confides of the legal profession. Again this text deals with many of topics being considered by the Review of Legal Education and Training mentioned earlier in this editorial.

The topics of the articles digested in this edition reflect the widening area of subjects covered in the law school curriculum. The first article which comes within the Assessment Methods is by Hart, Hammer, Collins and Chardon and deals with the problem of being faced by law schools as to how they might effectively engage with students who are increasingly absent from the campus because of other demands upon their time, such as paid employment. This article will be of particular interest to Australian law academics as it considers the requirements of six ‘Threshold Learning Outcomes’ (TLOs) now being promoted by the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD).

Clinical Legal Education is a subject heading for two articles. In the first, Kruse takes the reader back to the 1920s and 1930s and the advent of the American Legal Realist Movement echoing Jerome Frank’s plea for the creation of ‘clinical lawyer-schools’. This is an interesting article which re-activates the 1944 ‘Llewellyn Report’ and its criticism of the appellate case method. It introduces the claim now made by supporters of the New Legal Realism Movement calling on legal scholars to supplement quantitative methods which qualitative research and linking it with the goals and methods of clinical legal education. The second item under this category is a thought-provoking article by Kosuri regarding the motive for social justice within the operation of law school clinics and espousing a more expansive and inclusive view of what clinics can do for law students.

Encouraging students to develop the ability to think more creatively within a module based on the Trials of Dissenters is the topic by Mercer, Rogers and Sandford-Couch covered by Critical Legal Studies. The reaction of students to an extremely imaginative course will be of interest to all those law academics seeking new ways to teach and stimulate their students.

In every edition of the Digest there is always a difficulty in classifying one of the digested articles. This was the situation with Apsel’s article regarding the development of a model for a genocide and human rights program eventually classified under Interdisciplinary Aspects (Sub-Heading – Context, Criticism and Theory). This article is principally concerned with the education of law students on the many aspects of genocide, particularly within the context of the Armenian Genocide. The article emphasises that part of the dynamic of the course is to raise new issues, integrate new research and adjust the curriculum to respond to issues which might arise in the study of genocide and human rights.

There are three articles which come within the heading of Legal Education Generally. In the first, Devonshire and Brailsford present a comparative study of the quality of law teaching within New Zealand and the United Kingdom and examine programs both for the development of new lecturers’ teaching competencies and also some mandatory longer term teaching and learning programs. In the second article, Huggins, Kift and Field are concerned with the development of Threshold Learning Outcome (TLO) No. 6 (referred to in the first article mentioned above) as the self-management outcomes by law graduates in respect of learning and working independently and being able to reflect on and assess their own capabilities and performance in support of their own personal and professional development. In the third article under this category Mayson examines the perpetual ongoing tensions relating to the purpose of the qualifying law degree (QLD) within the context of England and Wales and the changes posed to professional legal training by the changes incorporated in the Legal Services Act 2007.

Figley is the author of the first article categorised under Skills. This article emphasises the importance of teaching new law students how to synthesise rules, arguing that it is a critical component in training them to think like lawyers. This category also covers an article by Dickert, Herbig, Glockner, Gansen and Portack which examines the formation of legal judgments in the context of legal cases decided by the German Federal Courts of Justice. This article is of interest in that is reproduced from an article not published in a law journal but in fact in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Under Students, Zalesne and Nadvorney are concerned with the fact that despite all the hard work on the part of some students and their teachers best efforts, they are unable to succeed in their legal studies because of a lack of consideration with respect to a ninth context-specific intelligence, which they propose as ‘academic intelligence’. They define this as an amalgam of cognitive, affective and social skills which they think contributes significantly to an entering student’s success in law school.

Technology is the category which dominates the last three articles. In the first by Kristl, is an American view of advantage which can be gained by the use of podcasting in the teaching of property law. The second article by Sayles and Te Wiata is concerned with the expansion of such technological tools in the teaching of business law. This has involved the use of teacher-student administered surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of technological aids such as the use of a Personal Response System (PRS) to facilitate student participation. In comparison to these North American experiences, the third article is based on the experience of a Transactional Learning Program developed within the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The program is of particular interest as it is carried out entirely online (except for an introductory lecture) and involves collaborative learning by encouraging students to share their knowledge and peer reviewing their work.

As Editor, I am always impressed by the knowledge and imagination displayed by law academics in endeavouring to improve the quality and stimulate the imagination of the students undertaking their courses and participating in their programs.

Emeritus Professor David Barker AM


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