#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.


#APLEC2014 – Impressions from Day One

This post is a week late because I have been immersed in working with my supervisor comments and review of my thesis chapters, but here goes…

IPLS Faculty Sing a Maori Welcome at #APLEC2014

The Australasian Professional Legal Education Council annual conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand during 14-15 November 2014. Congratulations to the host, the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS), for a well-organised and well-resourced conference – my experience as a presenter and attendee was enjoyable, and support staff inspired confidence when setting up for the presentation. The Conference Theme was ‘Creating Communities of Learning’.

Day One commenced with a beautifully-sung  welcome in Maori by members of IPLS (a motif that continued at the conference dinner, with several participants standing to sing in different genres).

Associate Professor Shirley Reushle from the Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland spoke to the theme of ‘Learning Community: If I Build It, Will They Come?’

Shirley said we’re all struggling with the same issues – looking for answers – what needs to be done to provide successful learning experiences for students? She outlined the concept of learning community, and spoke to concepts of ‘leadership in creating and maintaining a learning community’ and ‘methods for conducting a learning community’.

Shirley observed  the concept of ‘community’ is highly valued by society, that students want hands-on, interactive, social learning activities – dislike passive learning – and a community of learning needs effective leadership to keep community alive. It is 2-way process – community belongs to everyone – it is about leadership and responsibility, not control. Innovation and fund needs to be a part of a community of learning – it is important to remember learners are people. Collaborative work is something special, it needs structure and purpose also flexibility and fluidity – effective leadership and facilitation.

Shirley asked, do communities of learning work? Are they necessary? What purpose might they serve? She observed that communities of learning involve recognition, and demonstrate acceptance, of differences in perspectives, beliefs, values etc. They involve development of interactive and collaborative skills required in discipline contexts.

Regarding the online learning context, Shirley referred to Ohler JR (2010) Digital Community, Digital Citizen, Corwin – Sage: “many educational systems still force learners to have two lives…”, ie, ‘digitally saturated’ in day-to-day life but ‘unplugged’ in the learning environment. Shirley said a virtual community requires specific efforts including peer-to-peer support – visible presence – efforts to communicate – scholarly dialogue – collaborations with peers – shared resources and practices – and build and deepen knowledge and expertise.

Shirley  used Twitter and SMS polling to ask the audience to contribute their ideas about encouraging communities of learning in an online environment – audience members could tweet or text their responses, which were displayed on the screen via  a website. I have heard of, have not seen, this tech before and I liked it a lot – a cool way to encourage interactions with audience.

Overall this was a good introduction to the community of learning concept –  type the phrase into Google Scholar and you will see the concept pervades teaching and learning in many disciplines.

Then it was time for parallel sessions – this presented some especially difficult choices because so many of the presentations I wanted to attend were running concurrently.

First up I attended a session presented by Judy Bourke (College of Law Sydney) and Maxine Evers (University of Technology Sydney)  on ‘Promoting Graduate Competence in Resilience and Well-Being: Strategies for the New Competency’. It is very good to see  inter-institutional collaborations of this kind. The presentation began with background to the topic, including the work of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, the resilience@law project, Wellness Network for Law, and the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) ‘Promoting Student Well-Being – Good Practice Guidelines for Law Schools‘. There was a discussion of elements of psycho-social factors relevant to employee responses to work, and work conditions, including organisational culture, clear leadership and expectations, good influence and involvement by workers, and balance in work, family, and personal life.  There followed some information about relatively new regulatory changes, including the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC) Uniform Admission Rules Competency Standards rr. 4.6 (‘Resilience and Well-Being’) and 5.16 (‘Self Management). We finished the session by breaking out into groups –  each discussing one of the following:

  1. How to raise graduates’ awareness of importance of personal resilience in legal practice?
  2. What information and resources should we provide to help develop resilience, maintain well-being and identify mental health difficulties e.g. Best Practice Guidelines?
How will information and resources be provided?
  4. Should the new competency be integrated with other competencies and subjects?
  5. How can graduates demonstrate they have achieved the new Self-Management element?

Judy and Maxine plan to collate the answers and return them to us in due course.

Time for lunch, with a short but intellectually provocative session facilitated by Ann Beckingham (Leo Cussen Institute), comparing disclosure requirements for admission in different Australian jurisdictions. Discussion was prefaced by information about The Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (the Application Act) enacted in Victoria and New South Wales, and  implications for what might eventually be a national procedure for admission to the legal profession. Ann outlined disclosure requirements in the Victorian jurisdiction, which involves several Practice Directions and Notices, including Practice Notice No. 2 of 2012 (Disclosure Requirements for Applicants). The Victorian requirements for disclosure are extensive (possibly more so than other jurisdictions) and one question is whether these would be adopted by other jurisdictions under a national admissions scheme. Part of the group discussion in this session focused on the administrative load the Victorian requirements generate for individuals and institutions. Other parts of the group discussion centred on potential impingement on natural justice, and parity and equity of outcomes of the scheme. It is a complex and challenging area to research, and I look forward to seeing research developed in this area.

After lunch, we were back into the parallel sessions – Clinical Associate Professor Terri Mottershead (Bond University) presented on ‘Innovating Legal Education through Law School and Law Firm Collaborations’. Terri spoke to common drivers for change for higher education and the legal industry; the coming of age for practical legal education – challenges and opportunities; beyond learning outcomes to competencies; and the new way forward – outcomes, partnerships and collaborations. I really enjoyed this presentation, which covered a lot of ground in detail, and I cannot do it justice here. In discussing common drivers for change, Terri referred to ’21st century practice’ with change driven by ‘more for less’, ‘liberalisation’, and ‘IT’ – emergent themes include ‘globalisation’, ‘technology and access to knowledge/justice’, ‘liberalisation/democratisation of knowledge’, ‘fees/funding/value’, and ‘integration/collaboration/partnership’.  Of particular interest to me was Terri’s discussion of the coming of age of practical legal education and the rise of pracademics. Readers familiar with my research might recall one of my interests is the integration of evidence-based practices and practice-based evidence toward a synthesis of know-what and know-how – the term pracademics seems to be neat fit with this, although on reading Price (2001), Posner (2009), and Susskind (2013), an underlying sense ‘us’ and ‘them’ between practitioners and academics remains. That said, it was heartening to hear someone of Terri’s standing recognising the relevance of pracademic work in professional legal education.

Then it was time for me to present – I will publish a separate post on my session.

Next, Fabian Horton (College of Law Victoria) presented on ‘Future communities – a paradigm shift in knowledge and teaching’. Fabian argued a dichotomy exists wherein ‘the internet, social media and our hyperconnected world can draw us closer together through virtual spaces. Yet at the same time we are becoming more disassociated through the forces of faux relationships, metrics and big data’.  In this context ‘we must rethink the skills lawyers need to properly serve our various communities’ –  Fabian identified  ’emerging legal disrupts’ including  ‘new law’, ‘legal informatics’ and  ‘commoditisation’ of  law – affecting the roles of future lawyers. He questioned what are ‘possible future skills’ that lawyers, and law teachers, will need. I interpreted Fabian as suggesting that traditional attitudes to law and legal education obstruct the impetus and undertaking to investigate possible ‘future’ skills – but this needs to change if law and legal education is to be part of a ‘future community’ in which technology plays a fundamental part.

Fabian’s presentation was thoughtful, challenged to some extent in speaking to relatively new concepts such legal informatics, which are yet to be widely understood legal education audiences.

The final presentation I attended for Day One was Ann-Maree David (College of Law Queensland) on ‘Supervision: the key to surviving and thriving in legal practice?‘  I am very interested in presentations relevant to supervision of pre-admission graduate lawyers and post-admission entry-level lawyers in practice – I believe it to be a neglected area of research in legal education, although I hasten to add there is much useful literature around supervision in the clinical legal education context. Ann-Maree supplied some excellent insights about the interplay (or lack thereof) between institutional PLT, workplace experience, and supervised practice. She pointed to research showing ‘successful students’ had one or more teachers (e.g. PLT practitioners) who were mentors, and had an internship (e.g. work experience) related to what they were learning in institutional coursework. For me, this highlights the widely-held misconception that 4-5 months of PLT coursework is intended to substitute for what were articled clerkships lasting years. As Anne-Maree pointed out, the work experience component of PLT, plus the period of post-admission supervised practice, should work together as part of the legal education continuum – there seems to be some recognition of this in professional guidelines concerning the statutory period of supervised practice. Ann-Maree also described how work experience and supervised practice could and should supply spaces for reflection and reflexivity to integrate learning, understandings, professional and social relations and connections, and how feedback/feedforward and peer mentoring activities play their part in this. An informative presentation that stimulated much discussion.

So that was my #APLEC2014 Day One – I will post about Day Two shortly.

Price, WT 2001, ‘A Pracademic Research Agenda for Public Infrastructure Models/Results Public Works Practitioners Need to Know’, Public Works Management & Policy, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 287-96.

Posner, PL 2009, ‘The Pracademic: An Agenda for Re‐Engaging Practitioners and Academics’, Public Budgeting & Finance, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 12-26.

Susskind, L 2013, ‘Confessions of a Pracademic: Searching for a Virtuous Cycle of Theory Building, Teaching, and Action Research’, Negotiation Journal, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 225-37.


#APLEC2014 – “Conceptualising PLT Practice as a Community of Learning through Practice Research”

I am attending the annual conference for the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council hosted by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Auckland this year (13-15 November 2014). I will post some impressions from the sessions I’ve attended after I return to Australia today, but overall the standard of the presentations is very high and there seems to be  momentum building for research in PLT practice. Thanks to APLEC for their support for my attendance at the conference.

I presented yesterday on “Conceptualising PLT Practice as a Community of Learning through Practice Research” – I am arguing  PLT practice research encompasses professional practice research, scholarship of teaching and learning in professional legal education and the social, cultural, regulation, and policy around PLT.

Here’s a copy of my Prezi (more on this later):


APLEC 2014 | Auckland | November 13-15

noir_auckland_sunsetThis year the Annual Conference for the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council will be hosted by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, at the Auckland University of Technology Law School Campus in Auckland, New Zealand.

The conference theme is: “Creating Communities of Learning”. You can download a copy of the Conference Brochure.

Key dates:

1 July Registrations and Call for papers
3 October
Deadline for call for papers
10 October
Notification of acceptance
17 October – Early Bird registration closes
3 November
– Registration closes
13 November – Conference Registration and Welcome
14-15 November – Conference

It looks interesting, and the conference theme is one I would like to see explored by PLT practitioners, in interdisciplinary and inter-institutional ways.

I hope to see you there.





Map of Revised National Competency Standards for PLT

NCS 2015 PNGI recently posted about the revised National Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers that apply to Australian practical legal training (PLT). The revised standards take effect from 1 January 2015.

I mapped the revised competencies and the ‘lawyer’s skills’ elements. Clicking on the thumbnail at left will open a full size picture. The map provides an “at-a-glance” summary.

For simplicity, I have not include all the elements or performance criteria for each competency. I have included the ‘lawyer’s skills’ elements, because often attract attention in discussions about the competencies.


My PhD Year 2013

On reflection, 2013 has been a good year for me, particularly in respect of my PhD research. Frame 1 Kris IntroMy research involves practical legal training practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”). Part of this involves studying PLT practitioners’ motivations and capabilities to engage with SoTL, and PLT providers’ symbolic support for and allocation of resources to SoTL. My theoretical framework and methodology draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s “reflexive sociology” and Michel de Certeau’s cultural study of everyday practices.

Confirmation Colloquium

Much of the first three months involved attending HDR student learning events and being focused on getting ready for my candidature confirmation colloquium at the end of March. This involved producing a 10,000 word document, including identification of a research problem, literature review, propositions about methodology, research ethics, a thesis outline and a research plan with a data collection and analysis strategies. Listing these items makes it look straightforward, but each item is densely packed with issues and questions and dilemmas needing identification and some coherent response. For example, I started out assuming that we know what “scholarship of teaching and learning” is, but discovered how problematic that term can be. I ended up reviewing about 50 items of literature before identifying some key elements of and approaches to SoTL. Producing the colloquium document and presenting it at the confirmation colloquium was a good experience, and certainly galvanised me into thinking constructively about how I was going to pursue my research. My confirmation colloquium panel was constructive and supportive, and my colloquium document was described as exemplary (I think this is the only time I’ve seen that adjective applied to my written work!).

Ethics Application

After confirmation, I was busy with my ethics application. My research plan included data collection via PLT practitioners in semi-structured interviews, which constitutes research involving human participants. It is requirement that a research proposal involving human participants must be reviewed by a human research ethics committee (“HREC”). This involved preparing a lengthy National Ethics Application Form and supporting documents. The supporting documents included a sample interview schedule, sample invitations and plain language statement. The process of preparing the documents forces you to think hard about what it is you want to achieve through the data collection, and the justification for the “why” and “how” in doing this. I started on the ethics application at the end of March and was able to lodge documents with the HREC in April. In the meantime, I was proceeding with m literature review and I was very happy to attend my son’s graduation at Monash University!

Recruiting Participants

In mid-May I received ethics approval (without requisitions!) and began recruiting participants for my research. I identified potential participants from PLT providers’ public websites, which usually (not always) included email contact details. I collected the email contacts and sent out invitations to participate using the pre-approved text. I also posted calls to participate on Twitter and LinkedIn. By the end of May I had over 30 respondents, which exceeded my expectations (I estimate that the number of ongoing PLT practitioners in Australia would not exceed 130 – it is difficult to say with certainty because many providers use sessional practitioners). By June I had 36 participants in total, with a representative mix of full-time and part-time practitioners, a range of seniority, post admission experience, and PLT practitioner experience. In most cases I made appointments to interview participants face-to-face, but some interviews were completed via Skype or telephone. The participants were located in Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.


It takes time to arrange interviews because PLT practitioners are very busy people, but there was a lot of goodwill and willingness to make time for me (for which I am very grateful). I was able to get some fieldwork funding from Deakin University to pay for travel to conduct face-to-face interviews in New South Wales. Fortuitously, I was able to arrange interviews in Queensland around the June 2013 International Journal of Clinical Legal Education conference in Brisbane, for which I had some conference funding. I self-funded travel to other locations. On the whole, conducting the interviews was a great experience, with many individuals providing insights about their personal approach to teaching and learning in PLT, and their perceptions of organisational approaches (including PLT providers, the profession and regulators). The interviews took up most of June and July, and I ended up with nearly 40 hours of recordings, which is a substantial amount of data.

Transcription, then Analysis

The whole of August was taken up with personally transcribing the interviews. After some experimentation, I found that I could transcribe the interviews by using speech-to-text software. I would listen to a 30-second segment of the interview, then dictate both sides of the interview (questions and answers). After an initial investment of time in “teaching” the dictation software, I was able to transcribe a 1 hour interview in about 4 hours with few errors. I would then email the transcripts to the participants for checking – they could request amendments or redactions if they wished. Pursuant to the plain language statement, if I did not receive a reply after 14 days, I treated the transcript as verified. Out of the 36 interviews, one participant was dissatisfied with the transcript, so we exchanged questions and answers by email. Five participants requested minor changes or redactions. By September, I was ready to settle down to analysis of the transcripts, which is still ongoing.

Conferences and Symposia

In February, I attended Deakin University’s excellent HDR Summer School at their beautiful Waterfront Campus. This was such a well-organised and stimulating event. I was also fortunate to attend the “Teaching-Research Nexus in Law: Opportunities and Challenges” national symposium in Adelaide. This was organised by the Legal Education Review journal, Adelaide Law School, and the Centre for Law Governance and Public Policy, and gave me very useful insights about scholarship of teaching and learning in legal education. Later in the year I participated at Deakin University’s “Warrnambool Collective” 4-day event, which gave me some dedicated time to writing up parts of my thesis, and provided some great presentations about practice research and academic know-how.

Throughout the year I was able to present different aspects of my work:

  • June – participated in the PhD candidate masterclass session at the “Sociologies in/of/for Education” symposium organised by The Australian Sociological Association at QUT in Brisbane.
  • July – presented, “‘A Mutual Confrontation of Structure and Accident’ 
A framework for Researching how lawyer-Mentors engage with scholarship of teaching” at the International Journal of Clincal Legal Education Conference at Griffith University in Brisbane. Co-presented with Melissa Castan, “The Matrix As The Gatekeeper: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximizing Research Impact And Engagement”, a paper (soon to be released as an article) by Melissa, Kate Galloway and me.
  • September – presented “‘A Unanimous Tacit Complicity’ – Does Reproduction Serve As Gatekeeping?” at the Australasian Law Teachers Association conference at ANU in Canberra.
  • November – presented ““Yes, No, Maybe, Can You Repeat The Question?’ Is Thinking Like A Lawyer Different To Thinking Like A Teacher?” at the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council conference at Flinders University in Adelaide.
  • December – presented “Betwixt And Between – Practical Legal Training Practitioners – Scholarship Of (Which) Practice?” at the “Doing Cultural Studies – Interrogating Practice” symposium at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.


Earlier this year, three articles were published based on work from 2012:

Greaves, Kristoffer and Lynch, Julianne (2012), ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’, Legal Education Review, 22 (1&2), 147-75. This article was based on research completed during Master of Professional Education and Training degree, under Juli Lynch’s supervision.

Greaves, Kristoffer (2012), ‘Learning Leadership is in Your Hands: Toward a Scholarship of Teaching in Practical Legal Training’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 5 (1/2), 1-264. This was based on some of my literature review early in my PhD candidature.

Castan, Melissa, Galloway, Kate, and Greaves, Kristoffer (2012), ‘Interconnectedness, Multiplexity and the Global Student: The Role of Blogging and Micro Blogging in Opening Students’ Horizons’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 5 (1/2), 177-88. This collaborative effort was born out of academic discussions between the authors on Twitter. The reaction to this article prompted a further, forthcoming article:

Galloway, Kate, Castan, Melissa, and Greaves, Kristoffer (2013), ‘The Matrix As The Gatekeeper: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximizing Research Impact And Engagement’, Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, 13 (1).

 Thank You!

It has been a very busy year, but mostly because of the support and opportunities put my way by so many people, especially my partner Jo, who patiently endures my ravings and never criticises my paltry income during this candidature. My son, Theo, whose creativity and free spirit is always inspirational. I have a fantastic principal supervisor in Dr Julianne Lynch, supportive and incisive, constructively confronting and critical, and always an eye out for learning and growing opportunities. My associate supervisors, Dr Shaun Rawolle and Dr Michael McShane, who take the time to give feedback and point me to literature that always enriches my understandings. I look up to Kate Galloway and Melissa Castan, they are indefatigable, smart, knowledgeable and witty – I am grateful they take the time to include me in their quest for world domination. I have family and friends, who do not “get” what I do exactly, but give me unconditional love and support anyway. All those “peripheral participants” who follow my blog or other outputs, I know they’re there and taking an interest and that is important to me. Anyone who has ever taken the time to ask me a question or to put an alternative view, you always prompt me to reflect and reconsider. There are also a lot of people working (often anonymously) in administrative roles that “make stuff happen”. So, Thanks! Rock on 2014!



#aplec2013 Day 1 Second Plenary

‘Yes, No, Maybe, can you repeat the question?’ 
Is thinking like A lawyer different to thinking like a teacher?

Kristoffer Greaves

Deakin University

I was surprised, and honoured, to be allocated the second plenary session at the conference. The presentation seemed to go well, and I received a lot of supportive feedback and suggestions. I’m not going to expand too much on the presentation here, I will try to produce a formal version for publication. I’ve uploaded an edited version of my presentation slides to YouTube.


#aplec2013 Day 2 Final Plenary

Exchange² in Practice: An interactive Session Exploring Current Issues

Moderator: Deborah Ankor

Flinders University Law School

Current issue topics sought from the floor, suggestions: the rise of the JD and implications for PLT; English language skills of PLT trainees; poor drafting skills – what can we do; are the competencies suitable for modern legal practice; unpaid work placements – what is PLT providers’ role.

We split up into groups around these topics – I participated in the drafting skills group. Plenty of anecdotal evidence that many PLT trainees’ writing and drafting skills need a lot of help. Interesting and constructive discussions in this largish group. I couldn’t capture everything said, but some themes: good writing and drafting needs lots of practice; challenging to provide enough practice within the time span of a PLT course; suggestions about individual and group work and formative assessment; instructional design to ensure skills practice pervades all parts of the course; drawing on existing literature around teaching and learning in writing and drafting skills; demonstrating varieties and forms of drafting by taking a single fact situation and re-telling it through emails, letters, pleadings, affidavits, agreements etc; the use of precedents as exemplars and ensuring the reason they are exemplars are explained (with opportunities to critique too); managing profession’s expectations of entry-level lawyers. It was clear there were many creative and thoughtful ideas about how to improve writing and drafting skills; it was suggested this be a focus for some presentations at next year’s APLEC conference.

I was really encouraged and inspired by the group discussion – the dynamic was respectful, focused on listening, with very few interruptions when someone was speaking – I know that some people dislike certain buzzwords, but for me this discussion modeled ‘collaborative reflection’ in a really practical way.

This was the last session of #aplec2013. The final address provided some updates regarding the recent review of the competency standards and some future developments – I will pick these up at a later date.

On the whole, a really successful conference, congratulations to the organisers from Flinders University and the Law Society of South Australia/Adelaide Law School.


#aplec2013 Day 2 Parallel Session

Postcards from the Edge: Proposed DIY Devolutionary Changes to PLT in Hong Kong

Jack Burke

City University Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, law graduates are required to complete a post-graduate certificate in laws program to be eligible for admission to the profession. The Law Society of Hong Kong proposes to introduce a qualifying exam, with the aim of ensuring uniform standards. The timing of the examination is yet to be decided pending a consultation process. Uncertainty about the timing of such an exam raises the prospect of graduates being able to qualify for admission without completing a practical legal training requirement. In the present circumstances many law graduates are unable to obtain placements in the post-graduate certificate program. Jack argued against the potential abolition of mandatory practical legal training, and canvassed other approaches to ensuring uniform standards and parity of access to PLT and admission processes.

UK LETR 2013 – found current model of doctrinal law degree followed by post-graduate skills training works well. Recommendation that current system of apprenticeships be extended. Also recommended for greater focus on professional competencies, e.g. professionalism, professional standards, learning attainment, reflection, emotional intelligence, dealing with uncertainty. Concern with standardisation and integrity – query whether centrally-based assessment should be adopted. Urged great consultation between stakeholders, e.g. profession, educators, regulators, trainees etc. Need for greater consistency between what is taught and what occurs in practice.

Ontario – has system of articled training. 2012 report ‘Pathways to the Profession: A Roadmap for the Reform of Lawyer Licensing in Ontario’. Perceived problems with articles – patchy work experiences, large firm focused, lack of effective feedback and instruction to clerks, single rotation in one practice area common. Reports that good training is excellent experience, but inconsistency in quality of training. Collecting data over 5 years re merits of pathways to admission. Separate minority report recommended that articles be abandoned because outdated, inconsistent. Recommended introduction of some online instruction.

USA – educational debt and high graduate unemployment is the current crisis. American Bar Association Draft Report (2013) – urging move from academic to vocational focus in JD programs. What would be the outcome of shifting away from doctrinal study?

Hong Kong – discussion of introducing a bar exam in 2018. Not clear whether in place of or in addition to the PCLL. Is the real issue a lack of standards, or a shortage of PCLL places? Situation in Hong Kong, many students do law school and PLT overseas and then seek to return to Hong Kong to practice. About 2000 students with law degrees, but only 600 PCLL places each year! PCLL is 26 week long intensive skills training. Benchmarked by law society and bar association. 1:10 teaching ratio; primarily F2F with some online instruction. Redmond Roper Report 2001 – identified problems in PCLL – criticised for overly being academic – since then instruction largely skills based and interactive.  Law society very interactive with PCLL – external academic advisers (EAAs) assess all exam scripts, and check marked assessments before signing off on results, must vet all PCLL course materials. EAAs sit in on instruction and evaluate instructors. Personal experience of this is a bit scary but has improved standards of teaching. Standing committee on legal education and training.

Jack argues for increased training places in Hong Kong and against abolition of PLT requirement.


#aplec2013 Day 2 First Plenary

PLT Placements and the Fair Work Act

Professor Andrew Stewart

Adelaide Law School

Professor Andrew Stewart and Professor Rosemary Owens co-authored the Fair Work Ombudsman’s report, ‘The nature and prevalence of unpaid work experience, internships and trial periods in Australia. Experience or Exploitation’, January 2013.

My impressions follow, tersely expressed. Errors and omissions are mine.

Andrew’s session discussed implications of the above report in the context of the work placement component of PLT programs.

Has focused on issue of unpaid work experience over the last 2 years. Report released February 2013, available from www.fwo.gov.au/unpaidwork  A key issue – question of whether PLT work placements are covered under the FWA.
Forms of work experience – apprenticeships, vocational education and training, school students, ‘work integrated learning’ in university courses, support programs for unemployed or injured workers.
Growth in ‘internships’ (cites ‘Intern Nation’ by Ross Perlin), pervasive in USA.
Report authors particularly interested in unpaid work experience outside of educational arrangements. Stratification – those able to persist with long term internships usually supported by families (socio-economic factors) – has a role to play in social mobility. Report distinguished unpaid work experience from volunteer work – latter performed with primary purpose of benefiting someone else or further a particular belief cf work experience focused toward improving employment prospects. (Some overlap though)
Evidence of significant use of unpaid trials/training in particular industries (e.g. film, fashion). Interns doing what would otherwise be paid entry-level work. Rife where graduate numbers  far in excess of available paid entry-level positions. Increasingly employers structuring their organisation around unpaid intern labour.

Surveyed law students from Uni of Adelaide, QUT and UWS – PLT placements not included in this survey – found 50% performed extracurricular unpaid work, majority not for credit toward degree, for some duration exceeding months, substantial number reported doing this work for law firms. Respondents reported reasons for doing this work included improving employability, practising skills, better understanding of work environment. Large number felt this was only way to enter legal profession given they had no personal/family networks in law.

Do employment laws (FWA) apply to unpaid work experience? FWA – no specific mention of unpaid work placements, other than ‘vocational placements’. So do minimum work conditions apply to unpaid work placements? FWA applies to anyone “employed”, but “employed” not defined in FWA. Looked at common law approaches to defining employment, e.g. Ermogenous v Greek Orthodox Community Inc, and ACE Insurance Ltd v Trifunovski [2013] FCAFC 3. Unpaid work as employment – mixed case law – sometimes found to lack intention to form employment arrangement. Something that starts as a non-contractual arrangement can evolve into an employment arrangement. Consideration for employment need not be wages. Report conclusion – on broad view of FWA – contract might be identified where commitment to work for experience/opportunity, and work is of value to employer, in which case FWA (and minimum conditions) should apply. Upcoming cases will test proposition.

Interesting cases from jurisdictions concerning legal profession – Strachan v Moodie [2012] NZCA 508; Edmonds v Lawson [2000] 2 WLR 1091. Wave of cases going through courts in USA – law clear but until now little enforcement.

Vocational placement exception in FWA – a ‘placement’ for which person not entitled to be paid any remuneration (usually doesn’t include reimbursements or gratuities), where placement undertaken as a requirement of education or training course authorised under law or administrative arrangement of Cth, state or territory. (Interpretation of section – must placement be authorised, or course? preferred interpretation is course).
If vocational placement exception does not apply, what is liability of educational institution [e.g. PLT provider] that organises or facilitates unpaid work experience as employer, or as accessory?

Fair Work Ombudsman might release position statement framing a broad approach to the vocational placement exception.
Question from floor – if institution involved in arranging placement, then more likely vocational placement exception applies, but if exception does not apply, institution could be liable as an accessory?
Yes – so institution needs to be careful about arrangements they facilitate.

Recent PLT placement case – Upton v Geraldton Resource Centre [2013] FWC 7827 – commenced unpaid placement, was offered paid employment after 22 days, dismissed within 6 month period, applied to FW under unfair dismissal provisions. Argument that 22 days unpaid placement should be included in minimum 6 month employment period was rejected by FW. Initial period treated by FW as ‘vocational placement’, authorised by Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA).
GLS v PLP [2013] VCAT 221 – complaint under Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) to VCAT re sexual harassment during PLT placement. Held that complainant was employee despite PLT placement, employee had received payment, and so complainant had standing to apply to VCAT under EOA. [Vocational placement exception under FWA would not have applied to this placement].  Other laws can apply to PLT placements – work health and safety, pending bullying legislation, migration legislation, Australian Consumer Law – might apply to misleading and deceptive conduct in advice and advertisements for unpaid work. PLT providers should take care with information supplied to trainees regarding work placements.

So, likely that FWA vocational placement exception should apply to most PLT placements, but care needed with arrangements.