Legal Education Digest
FROM THE EDITOR
This has already been a special year for Australian legal education. At the Commonwealth Legal Education Conference held in Durban in April of this year a significant event took place with the establishment of the Commonwealth Law Students Association (CLSA). As with law students everywhere there was great enthusiasm implementing the Constitution with regard to the election of officers – the first President of the CLSA being Corinne O’Sullivan who is also currently the President of the Australian Law Students Association. It was noteworthy that Corinne received financial support to attend the Conference by means of a bursary – the first ever – awarded by the Australian Academy of Law.
We would like to bring to the attention of both our Australian and international readers the fact that the ALTA Conference has been moved from July/August to later this year in September – still at the Australian National University (ANU). Of particular interest will be the award of honorary life memberships of the Association to both the Governor-General of Australian, the Hon. Quentin Bryce AC, a former law academic in her own right, and the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon. Chief Justice Robert French AC.
For the book review in this edition we welcome another text by that highly regarded legal author, Richard Susskind. The title of this latest book is: Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to your Future.
And so to the contents of the digest, commencing with the first of which are two articles under Clinical Legal Education. The first by Evans involves a wide ranging number of matters relating to the topic together with the question of self-assessment. With regard to the latter the author is of the view that there is a need for such self-assessment if clinical legal education is to continue to play a role in strengthening legal education. In the other article Spencer deals with the more specific aspects of the role of reflection relating to clinical legal education.
Curriculum is the subject heading for Lo’s review of how legal education has become internationalised in Australia. The author makes the point that not only must universities formulate policies and strategies to internationalise tertiary education but it is also the responsibility of academic disciplines within each university to explore ways to internationalise their respective curricula.
Individual Subjects categorises Lawan’s article which deals with the challenging topic of teaching Islamic law in both the English and Nigerian jurisdictions. In this respect it draws attention to the fact that in both jurisdictions Islamic law is taught through a second language which is English.
As always there are a large number of articles digested under Legal Education Generally. The first by Henderson deals with how a law school manages change and the importance of embracing the support of both staff and students in such an undertaking. The article stresses the importance of investing in a long-term strategy cultivating more employment opportunities for law graduates particularly within the area of organisational clients such as in-house lawyers and outside counsel. This is followed by a highly entertaining and stimulating article by Kotze and Gravett regarding the real reason for being involved in law teaching, and whether law academics regard this as a true vocation or have other reasons for becoming involved? It argues that whilst some attention has been given to the study of academics and their profession, it has not focussed extensively on legal academics in their role as a teacher. McEntee, Lynch and Tokaz are concerned that there is a crisis in legal education and consider how one should approach planning for such an eventuality. Their recommendations incorporate shortening the duration of law degree programmes, replacing the traditional law school with an adjunct-focused structure creating a modular law school and returning to professional legal training programmes by re-introducing the lawyer academy. In contrast Minzner traces what in the writer’s view is the rise and fall of Chinese law education noting how the Chinese authorities are now seeking to remedy what they view as the major problems with current Chinese legal education. The final article under this category by Watson finishes on an optimistic note with suggestions for changes in legal education and how they may be achieved.
Whilst the LED does not have a heading for Cross-Disciplinary teaching it could be accepted that Campbell’s review on the teaching of law in medical schools could be appropriately categorised under the heading of Other Disciplines and Professions. However categorised the article has a vital message with regard to the importance of demystifying law for medical students and the identification of ‘the need for more rigorous studies to evaluate medico-legal knowledge and skills development and retention’.
Skills covers a wide range of topics relating to the improvement of teaching law with the first by Boyne focusing on how simulation can be used to improve the decision-making skills of law students. This is followed by Gerber and Castan exploring the use of moots in the teaching of human rights law. In the third article under this heading Kang advocates the use of role play and interview modes as effective methods for teaching essential legal skills and maximising the participation of students in these activities. The author stresses the benefits of combining elements of traditional case rounds such as reflection with opportunities to practice the essential skills such as storytelling, counter-analysis and interrogatory basics.
Students is the heading for the final article by Stinson digested in this edition. It explains how law schools and law firms can cooperate in an effective partnership for the meaningful development of a community and culture for the support of legal scholarship. It also emphasises that not only does scholarship create knowledge, it also makes for better lawyers and teachers. This is an optimistic article to conclude what is, as always in the Digest, a series of articles which illustrate the variety and quality of how law academics never cease in their exploration of ways by which they can stimulate their students in their quest to prepare effectively for their future role in legal practice.
Emeritus Professor David Barker AM