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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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in PLT gets a Bit ‘o Press…

1416804548-kris-greaves211114The excellent people at Deakin University were pleased when I received an award from the International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at their recent annual conference held in Quebec City, Canada (ISSOTL14). The award was for best oral presentation by a post-graduate student, and I appreciate receiving it, given I was presenting my research to a new audience of interdisciplinary scholars. It is always an unknown quantity when one travels to another country and presents in front of an international audience who are unlikely to be familiar with your work or the peculiarities of your discipline. I am heartened by the warmth and friendliness of people at overseas conferences, particularly the Association of Law Teachers annual conference in Leeds, England, earlier this year, and ISSOTL14. Thanks to Dr Michael McShane, who alerted me to ISSOTL14 and prompted me to submit an abstract for the conference.

Geelong Advertiser 211114Thanks also to my supervisor, Dr Julianne Lynch, who is supportive in that rare constructively confronting way essential to great academic supervision – Juli prompted the Deakin Research group to spread news of the award – their research writer Claire Whiteley interviewed me and wrote a nice item, published in the Geelong Advertiser (the local news) and reproduced on Deakin’s Research Showcase website. Scholarship of teaching and learning in practical legal training is a bit of a niche topic – so it is good to see it get a public outing.

 

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#APLEC2014 – Impressions from Day Two

Gift to presenters at #APLEC2014
Gift to presenters at #APLEC2014

The second day of the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council conference on 15 November (Auckland)  was a half-day with a keynote followed by two sessions of parallel streams. This was consistent with recent conferences, but I believe a case can be made for two full days given the increasing number of good quality presentations.

Regrettably I missed the first keynote because a fire alarm incident at my hotel.  This was a pity because I was looking forward to the presentation by Leah de Wijze,  a Senior Educational Designer (Open Polytechnic, New Zealand
). Leah has a background in international education, and her leadership role involves responsibility for design and development of materials for open and flexible learning for professions and vocations. What follows is extracted from Leah’s slides – kindly shared with the conference. Leah spoke to ‘Do Distance Students Experience Community? {And does it even matter?’ Leah’s discussion touched on the concepts of gemeinshaft (community – ‘group has priority’) and gessellschat (society – ‘individual has priority’) – I note these concepts are also of interest in sociology of law – e.g.  Tomasic (1983). I am interested to see Leah drew on the Community of Inquiry framework – which models ‘educational experience’ as an intersection between social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence – Garrison & Archer (2007) is a good introduction to the COI framework. I think the COI framework is a useful approach in the flexible, online and distance education contexts and have discussed this elsewhere (Greaves & Lynch 2012). Leah notes there are ‘different audiences with different orientations’ and in that context we should aim for ‘different types of learning communities’ involving ‘different levels of interaction’. As to this last point – I tend to think of this in linguistic terms, where the concept of multiplexity recognises that people might connect or relate to each other in a multitude of ways – for example, they might share physical proximity, philosophical propinquity, or speak in different registers depending on the role they’re playing at a given time or in a given context. I am especially sorry to miss Leah’s discussion of heuristics and theory as ‘help or hindrance’, because I think this dynamic is especially relevant in practical legal training and scholarship of teaching and learning.  I am also intrigued by the penultimate slide in Leah’s presentation, ‘It’s all about T.R.U.S.T – teach; reward; unconditionally support; short bursts of information; and trustworthiness.’ Hopefully Leah will share the presentation more widely via SlideShare or similar.

The first parallel session I attended was a presentation by Katherine Mulcahy and Eleny Tzioumis (leaders in program development at College of Law NSW). Katherine and Eleny spoke to ‘Preparing New Lawyers to Use Knowledge Resources. What is the value of content in the PLT curriculum?‘ – which involved a fascinating review of one institution’s approach to PLT instructional design and content since the 1970s. This necessarily encompassed the evolution of technology used to deliver content, e.g. the use of practice papers as loose sheets in manila folders,  ring binders, text books, CD-Rom materials, online materials, e-Books and paperbacks, etc.  The technological evolution is contextualised by factors such as the dominant teaching and learning paradigm, the complexity and costs associated with certain media, and student satisfaction and practices. It was interesting to hear that student uptake of e-books was not as widespread as anticipated, and that many students continue to prefer the hands-on convenience of print materials, with many referring back to those materials during the early years of post-admission practice. I know that was true for me – I recall retaining my binders of Leo Cussen materials for the first 2-3 years of practice. One of the main themes I took away from Katherine and Eleny’s presentation is how the production, format, and delivery of learning content is a BIG task complicated by so many considerations, and doing it well takes insight, expertise underscored by research.

For the second parallel session I attended Morton Herschderfer (College of Law South Australia) and Shelley Dunstone’s (Legal Circles) presentation on ‘Collaborative Teaching (2 teachers in the classroom)‘. This was a thoughtful and well-research presentation involving historical context, recent developments, and case studies about collaborative- or team-teaching. The historical context and recent developments section was well-researched (I took copious notes!) with several useful citations and quotations – I really hope they advance this work to publication so it can be shared with the PLT and legal education community. Unfortunately this meant there was not as much time spent on the case studies – based on Morton and Shelley’s experiences of being teamed to teach together without previous experience of doing so. There was some great anecdotal material and two or three short role plays in which they described different approaches to planning and performing face-to-face PLT work, and the use of post-teaching events to debrief and reflect on their processes. The main take-home message for me was Morton’s description of Shelley constructively confronting his autonomous and loosely structured style, and pushing him to give an account of his assumptions and practices. Morton credits this process with improving his teaching work. I think that in legal education so many of us prefer to work independently but there are real advantages in taking time to collaborate with others. Good presentation and work that deserves to be advanced further.

That completed the sessions for this year’s APLEC annual conference – and there were many I wish I could have attended but for the ‘tyranny’ of the parallel session!

Finally Lewis Patrick, current chair of APLEC wrapped up the proceedings. I agree with Lewis that the standard of presentations is constantly improving and lengthening the conference to two full days is warranted. Lewis also indicated that APLEC will be commissioning research about a number of issues of concern in the near future. Lewis also announced my agreement to consult to APLEC  about establishing a research repository as part of a refreshed APLEC website – subject to details yet to be worked out. I left this conference buoyed by the presenters’ energy and insights – to quote Terri Mottershead – it seems this could be the ‘coming of age’ for PLT.

 


 

D. Randy Garrison and Walter Archer, ‘A Theory of Community of Inquiry’ in Michael G Moore (ed), Handbook of Distance Education (2nd ed, 2007) 77.
Kristoffer Greaves and Julianne Lynch, ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’ (2012) 22(1&2) Legal Education Review 147.
Roman Tomasic, ‘Social Organisation Amongst Australian Lawyers’ (1983) 19(3) Journal of Sociology 447.

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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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Research in Australian PLT – Has Much Changed?

Here’s John Nelson,* writing in 1988:
nelson 1988Has much changed since those comments?

It is not always easy to know what current research is undertaken in PLT, because little is published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and few practitioners in the field share their work by other means, e.g. social media. There was briefly a dedicated journal for Australian PLT and clinical education, The Journal of Professional Legal Education, which ceased publication in 1998.

There are few articles focused on PLT, particularly scholarship of teaching and learning in PLT, in Australian legal education journals such as the Legal Education Review, and the Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association. Of those that are published, few are cited elsewhere, save where the research is the result of collaborations with non-law disciplines, e.g. behavioural sciences.

I’ve nearly completed a bibliometric analysis of 10 journal articles published in scholarly journals since 2006, regarding PLT and relating to scholarship of teaching and learning concepts. My preliminary observations:

The ten articles do not have citation counts on Web of Science, or Scopus, so I was unable to able to do automated citation analysis there. Two articles have citation counts on Google Scholar.

The group of ten articles cited 186 sources:
Articles – 133
Books – 29
Conf Papers – 13
Research Papers – 6
Reports – 5

Google Scholar listed 166 of the sources, with citation counts ranging from nil to 8982 (median = 15) (June 2014). Sources with high citation counts were usually in behavioural sciences.

SCimago SJR ranked journals for 43 citations (June 2014). Of these four were published in The Law Teacher, the only SJR ranked journal cited in the articles that specifically focused on legal education. Five were cross-disciplinary law journals (e.g. involving sciences, psychiatry, behavioural sciences, and politics), and six were law journals. The remaining journals focused on education (15, including cross-disciplinary journals involving technology), psychology (7), and other disciplines including psychiatry, medicine, and management.

JCR ranked journals for 32 citations (June 2014). Of these three were published in the Journal of Legal Education, the only JCR ranked journal cited specifically focused on legal education. Five were cross-disciplinary law journals, and four were law journals. The most numerous disciplines were education (7), and psychology (7). The remainder were comprised of other disciplines including psychiatry, medicine, and management.

Personally, I do not accord any particular magic to citation counts.  I am interested in how we can use bibliometric analysis to empower individual PLT practitioners to operate strategically inside and outside conventional metrics, to make cases, to garner institutional support and allocation of resources to SoTL work. I am also interested in the “Kardashian index” phenomenon, where a social media profile can acquire certain cultural and symbolic capitals, which might help practitioners to garner support and resources for research.

As I have said elsewhere, I think SoTL in PLT is important for many reasons. We need to work on building institutional support and resources for SoTL work. We can also empower PLT practitioners to undertake such work.

* John W Nelson, New directions for practical legal training in the nineties : an evaluation of the curriculum of the College of Law’s P.L.T. Course and its relevance to students’ work experiences in practice / a research project conducted on behalf of the College of Law by John W. Nelson, assisted by Pamela E. Stewart (1988).

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