Storified Tweets from #altlaw15

altlaw15Being in the submission phase of my PhD candidature, I was sorry to miss the Association of Law Teachers 50th Annual Conference in Cardiff, Wales held during 29-31 March 2015.

I was able to vicariously enjoy the conference via Twitter – you can view a Storified version  of the tweets as a slide show below:

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Law Institute of Victoria seeks members’ views re LACC review of academic requirements

I have previously posted information about the Australian Law Admissions Consultative Committee review of Academic Requirements. The deadline for submissions to the LACC is 31 March 2015.

The Law Institute of Victoria is seeking views from its members – from the LIV ‘Law In Brief’ circular:

“Law Admissions Consultative Committee: We need your views
The LIV is seeking the views of members on the LACC review, which is being conducted at the request of the Council of Chief Justices. Specifically we would like your views on three broad questions; Does the Priestley 11 require changing? What are employers’ views on the skills graduates obtain at law school – what is working and what is missing? What are the views of law graduates and young lawyers? Send your views to Andrew Tabone at atabone@liv.asn.au by 19 March to enable us to lodge a submission by the deadline of 31 March.”

The LACC has listed copies of submissions already received here.

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Re-Imagining Practical Legal Training Practitioners

jalta2014The Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association has published my article today: ‘Re-Imagining Practical Legal Training Practitioners – Soldiers for ‘Vocationalism’, or Double Agents?’ (2014) 7(1/2) Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 101.

You can click on the picture above to download the article.

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SoTL, PLT, and the paramount obligation proposition

LawTeacher2015The good people at The Law Teacher have published my article about some insights I gleaned from interviews with PLT practitioners. The Law Teacher is an international legal education journal well worth a subscription. Click here to find an online version of my article, Kristoffer Greaves (2015): Is scholarship of teaching and learning in practical legal training a professional responsibility?, The Law Teacher, DOI: 10.1080/03069400.2014.991203. This article is paywalled, but hopefully you can get access to it via your institution’s library.

In précis, during interviews with Australian PLT practitioners in mid-2013 I used a question about lawyers’ paramount obligations to the court to provoke discussion about institutional and extra-institutional forces affecting scholarship of teaching and learning in institutional PLT. The article is a necessarily brief analysis of interviewees’ responses to the question. The interviews form part of the data collected for  my PhD thesis, which I hope to submit for examination around the end of March this year.

 

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Access to Justice Arrangements Final Report – Quick Look re PLT

access-justice-volume1The Productivity Commission’s final inquiry report regarding Access to Justice Arrangements (5 September 2014) was released on 4 December 2014. You can download the report here.

I have previously discussed the draft report and some submissions to the inquiry here.

I have quickly scanned the report for what it states about practical legal training. Firstly, Recommendation 7.1 (underlining added):

RECOMMENDATION 7.1 The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council, in consultation with universities and the professions, should conduct a systemic review of the current status of the three stages 
of legal education (university, practical legal training and continuing professional development). The review should commence in 2015 and consider the: 


  • appropriate role of, and overall balance between, each of the three stages of legal education and training 

  • ongoing need for each of the core areas of knowledge in law degrees, as currently specified in the 11 Academic Requirements for Admission, and their relevance to legal practice 

  • best way to incorporate the full range of legal dispute resolution options, including non-adversarial and non-court options, and the ability 
appropriate resolution option to the dispute type and characteristics into one (or more) of the stages of legal education 

  • relative merits of increased clinical legal education at the university or practical 
training stages of education
  • regulatory oversight 
for each stage, including the nature of tasks that could 
appropriately be conducted by individuals who have completed each stage of education, and any potential to consolidate roles in regulating admission, practising certificates and continuing professional development. Consideration should be given to the Western Australian and Victorian models in this regard. 


The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council should consider the recommendations of the review in time to enable implementation of outcomes by the commencement of the 2017 academic year.

The first dot point is very interesting – Noel Jackling cites the Trew Report (1966), the Freadman Report (1969), the McDowell Report (1971), the Ormrod Report (1971) and the Victorian Joint Working Party Report (1985) as all adopting a ‘compartmentalised’ model, ‘in which the stages [of legal education] follow each other’.  A review of the three-stage model would have implications for those who have treated the three compartments as watertight in the past. I believe such a review is overdue.

Increased clinical legal education during the academic or PLT stage could have challenging consequences. I support clinical legal education for teaching and learning in law; however there are substantial administrative and financial factors associated with it. As the report observes at p. 249:

Although it has benefits, clinical legal education is very intensive in terms of staff resources, and is therefore relatively expensive when compared with more traditional university-based methods for teaching law.

I would not like to see an  approach to new requirements that might inhibit diversity, equity, and parity of access to legal education.

Regulatory oversight is also an interesting issue in PLT – I have received  feedback from PLT practitioners about  regulators’ resistance to change and innovation in teaching and learning theory and practices in PLT.

The recommendation contemplates the review of the three-stage model commencing next year and concluding before the 2017 academic year – so hold on to your hats – this will be an exciting ride!

Volume 1, p. 242 of the report includes a brief summary of ‘practical legal training and admission’.  Curiously, the report omits mention of one of the longest-serving PLT providers, the Leo Cussen Institute, when stating PLT courses ‘are offered online and throughout the country by universities, the College of Law and other select training bodies’.

Volume 1, p. 248 – the report states ‘Clinical legal education can provide more practical training’ but observes it should not just be an ‘add-on’ to the academic degree, later adding at p. 249 (underlining added):

Given the increasingly generalist role of the undergraduate law degree, a focus on elements that are specific to practising in the legal profession (as distinct from corporate or government work) could be misplaced. However, in postgraduate study (such as JDs or PLT), the use of clinical legal education to concurrently develop knowledge and skills may prove a valuable means to expedite courses while still maintaining quality.

It is not clear on first reading whether the Commission considered the work experience component of PLT. If the intention is to supplement the work experience component with clinical legal education, this may or may not solve the current problem of the shortage of work experience placements, provided the admission boards accept clinical legal education undertaken during PLT as part of the pre-admission work experience requirements. The Commission refers to the Newcastle University’s integrated program of academic, clinical legal education, and PLT, seemingly taking this as a model for what might be done. My understanding, however, is that graduates from integrated programs face difficulty in having the PLT qualification accepted for admission in some jurisdictions.

Vol 1, p. 252 – in discussing a ‘balancing’ of the three stages of legal education and training, the Commission states (underlining added):

Simply adding new elements to legal education (ADR, clinical legal education) risks driving up the cost and duration of education. Instead, the role of each of these stages in training professional lawyers should be examined. Such elements need to be incorporated or ‘embedded’ into the broader learning process. Given the tendency towards more ‘generalist’ undergraduate law degrees a tiered approach to education might be appropriate, with strengthened postgraduate or practical legal training for those who intend to practice.

This seems to contemplate a more integrated approach, but with qualifications structured for practitioners and non-practitioners. An integrated approach could have modules mandated for the practitioner stream, and to which non-practitioners could later return if they chose to qualify for practice. There might be some (not insurmountable) challenges for instructional design if an integrated approach is adopted. Consider, for example, a pervasive approach to teaching subjects such as professional responsibility and legal ethics across the curriculum – instructional designers would need to track whether learning concepts are adequately covered in both practitioner and non-practitioner streams.

So that’s a quick look – I hope to complete a more detailed examination of the report early next year, with a comparison between the final report and the submissions considered regarding PLT.


 

Noel Jackling, ‘Academic and Practical Legal Education: Where Next’ (1986) 4 Journal of Professional Legal Education 1.

Productivity Commission, ‘Access to Justice Arrangements – Productivity Commission Inquiry Report’ (Productivity Commission, 2014).

The Committee on Legal Education, ‘Report Of The Committee On Legal Education (“The Ormrod Report”)’ (The Committee on Legal Education, 1971).

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Legal Services Council – Call for Submissions re Proposed Uniform Admission Rules

The Legal Services Council is the body responsible for making new rules under the Legal Profession Uniform Law.

New South Wales and Victoria have passed enabling legislation and the Uniform Law is expected to commence in those jurisdictions from the middle of 2015.

Members of the Admissions Committee appointed to develop proposed uniform Admission Rules are Professor Sandford Clark as inaugural Chair, and:

  • The Hon Justice Emilios Kyrou
  • The Hon Justice Richard White
  • Dr Elizabeth Boros
  • Professor Carolyn Evans
  • Mr John Littrich
  • Mr Gary Ulman

The Admissions Committee has called for written submissions regarding the consultation draft of the proposed Admission Rules.

The consultation draft is available here.

The explanatory paper is available here.

Written submissions will be accepted until 30 January 2015. These can be emailed: submissions@legalservicescouncil.org.au.

You can learn more about the submission requirements and details here.

If you are involved in practical legal training or other aspects of the process for admission of person to the legal profession, I urge you to read the documents and consider lodging a submission.

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LIV Law Graduates of the Future Forum – Session One Notes

I accepted an invitation to be a panelist at “Law Graduates of the Future” forum in Melbourne this morning. My co-panelists were Richard Besley, CEO of the Secretariat for the Victorian Council of Legal Education and Board of Examiners, and Vicki Kennedy, proprietor of Spring Legal, a legal career service. I was unable to stay beyond my session, so hopefully someone will report on the forum elsewhere.

The central topic for this morning’s session concerned the perceived  “oversupply” of law graduates, and what should be done to better understand the current situation. This is not my area of expertise, but I sought to offer some insights from the pre-admission practical legal training perspective. What follows are my notes for a 5-minute presentation each panelist was asked to give before moving into questions and discussions.

My research focuses on institutional practical legal training in Australia (PLT). Institutional PLT is a mandatory requirement for admission to the profession, and must also include a work experience component. The research studies policy and regulation in PLT, and lawyers working as PLT practitioners. The research data includes interviews with 36 PLT practitioners around Australia. During the interviews, some interviewees made comments relevant to today’s discussion —

Most interviewees agreed there was a professional responsibility to the courts, the profession, and law graduates — to make sure law graduates achieve learning outcomes specified in the National Competency Standards.

A law degree is a prerequisite for undertaking PLT. Some interviewees said they encountered law graduates needing remedial support with foundational legal skills such as reasoning, research, writing, and drafting simple documents. Interviewees observed that law degrees involve 3-5 years full-time study around foundational legal skills, whereas PLT has about 15 weeks full-time (~30 weeks part-time) to teach professional practice skills, values, and practice areas, under the National Competency Standards. I notice the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC), as part of its submissions to the Productivity Commission “Access to Justice Arrangements” inquiry, commented that it was unreasonable to expect PLT to undertake such remedial work, given time and costs.

Work experience is a mandatory part of PLT admission requirements. Some interviewees said parts of the profession should “step up” to give work experience opportunities, and good quality work experiences. Some interviewees said many graduates employed at law firms were not allocated adequate time to undertake PLT coursework as a constructive learning experience, so that PLT coursework becomes a “tick-a-box” activity.

Many interviewees perceived law graduates were under enormous pressure – having spent years of study to complete a law degree, then complete PLT, whilst working to support themselves. Interviewees said many graduates were anxious about employment opportunities, and keenly aware of competition for these.

The interviewees’ comments are consistent with comments in reports from overseas. The “Legal Education and Training Review” in England and Wales, and the American Bar Association’s “Task Force on the Future of Legal Education”, explored new and possibly controversial approaches, with attention to the stratification, specialisation, breadth, and depth, of legal education. They expressly encouraged regulators to adopt flexible approaches to legal education and training. They contemplated new restricted and specialised education and qualifications that depart from a generalist approach, in response to changes to business structures, business procedures, and information communications and technology.

Rapidly emerging areas of computational and analytical methods in legal practice, including the use of big data, and decision-making applications, will re-shape some areas of practice. Practice innovations include outsourcing of procedural components of legal work. These changes respond to clients seeking set-price legal solutions. What legal practice “will look like” is changing for present and future law graduates.

It seems 19th and 20th century concepts of a lawyer are continuing to fragment. Change complicates and nuances questions about an “oversupply” of law graduates. Change has implications for clients, policy-makers, regulators, educators, and employers, in the legal field. We need to learn more about these implications, to anticipate and respond to them.

I support the proposal for in-depth research that asks questions about the “state of play” for established AND emergent factors in law graduates’ education and employment.  This research needs to dig deep to elicit qualitative insights. I notice that a recommendation in the  Productivity Commission’s “Access to Justice Arrangements” report  called for a ‘holistic review’ of all stages of legal education. There seems to be shared interests in further investigations.

 

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Concept Mapping Lave & Wenger’s ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’

I recently revisited Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s canonical work, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (1991, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). I am glad I did, because I had forgotten how Lave and Wenger’s theory of “legitimate peripheral participation” might intersect with the sociological dimensions of my research regarding PLT practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning.

For now, I might let the “exhibit speak for itself”. Click on the image for an enlarged view of the concept map. Click here, for a dynamic Prezi version.

Lave and Wenger Legitimate Peripheral Participation

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