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.


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.




#alta2014 presentation: PLT Practitioners: Soldiers for Vocationalism, or Double Agents?

alta2014Feel free to view my ALTA 2014 Prezi.

This presentation extends on some previous work around my PhD research.
I question ways in which social structures are inscribed into legal education practices, and conversely, whether practices can modify those structures. I argue PLT practitioners are not simply soldiers for a “vocationalist” strategy. Instead, I re-imagine PLT practitioners as “double agents” or “resistance fighters”, lamplighters in a still emergent professional trajectory. It is a trajectory catalysed by the 1970s introduction of institutional PLT; just a baby really, in the context of English common law.

In Bourdieu’s terms it is possible, by revisiting past struggles in Australian legal education, to conceptualise institutional PLT as the product of judicial, professional, and academic struggles to produce a vocationalised, non-academic, and critique-free sub-field within the juridical field. Those struggles succeeded, to some extent, in the extra-individual dimension of structures, regulation, and institutions, to collectively inculcate preferred dispositions within individuals about legal education and professional identity.

That account, however, ignores the potential for agency and alterity – the ways in which individuals might appropriate, in Certeau’s terms, the resources of the legal field to explore new professional trajectories. For some, these trajectories involve struggles to enrich, and add texture to, legal education. Drawing on interviews with PLT practitioners, I identify multi-vocal and multi-perspectival themes, including notions of social justice, equality, professional ethics, personal improvement, and indeed, interest in scholarship of teaching and learning.

It is in this sense I re-imagine PLT practitioners as “double agents”, operating betwixt and between dominant domains in law. In my view, PLT practitioners can participate in conceptualising and developing emergent approaches in legal education, and to theorise “practice” as lawyers and educators. Scholarship of teaching and learning has its part to play in this. It provides a means, as lawyers and as educators, to discover information, to reflect, critique, communicate, and conceptualise, insights about “practice” and practices.

I hope to publish an article based on the presentation later this year.



Cheryl Reynolds’ simple explanation of Bourdieu’s field theory

Those familiar with my work likely know that I like a good visualisation. This is one reason why I like Cheryl Reynolds’ 2 minute explainer re Bourdieu’s field theory. I draw on Bourdieu’s sociological tools for my thesis. Do have a look at Cheryl’s YouTube video, it is nicely done.


Dr Matthew Ball on power relations and legal identity in legal education

I have been reading a useful series of articles on the above topic by Dr Matthew Ball. I am interested in how Matthew uses Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’, to critically analyse approaches taken in critical legal studies, and legal education pedagogy, regarding law students and power relations. Matthew’s PhD thesis is a detailed and enjoyably readable investigation of the topic.

I am no expert on Foucault, but I tend to resist the treatment of acts of resistance to, or within, panoptic disciplinary ‘microbial practices’, as being subsumed into the system of discipline (yes, I know). I like to contemplate Foucault’s approach in conjunction with Certeau’s idea, that subjects/consumers can divert dominant practices into ‘other forms of operation’, through the ‘subjects” tactics, which inform their practices in ‘everyday life’. (Certeau employs the French term of ‘perruque’ – where workers divert employers’ resources to produce things things for their own consumption, for example). When I read about ‘perruque’ I cannot help thinking about the idea of ‘bricolage’, as advanced by Claude Lévi-Strauss in ‘The Savage Mind’ (1968, University of Chicago Press), in the sense that beliefs and practices of interpretative mastery can be remembered through folklore and rites, and experimentally (playfully) coalesced and reorganised, to produce new objects. I am also interested in comparing Certeau’s and Bourdieu’s approaches to this idea of ‘interpretive mastery’.

From the point of view of investigating how subjects/consumers/agents undertake acts of ‘interpretive mastery’, Jeremy Ahearne (and Certeau) has compared Bourdieu’s ‘objectification of objectification’, with Certeau’s explicit operation of ‘withdrawal and power’: Ahearne, J & de Certeau, M 1995, Michel de Certeau: Interpretation and its other, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. This seems to me to be partly a struggle about how to manage the situation, where the researchers enter into a power relation, with those occupying positions in the field under study, and the researchers bringing with them their own assumptions and preconceptions. I am exploring these issues, as I develop my own study of Australian PLT teachers’ engagement with scholarship of teaching.

I commend to you the following articles by Dr Ball:

Ball, MJ 2012, ‘Power in legal education: a (new) critical and analytical approach’, QUT Law and Justice Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 157-77.

Ball, M 2012, ‘Becoming a ‘Bastion Against Tyranny’: Australian Legal Education and the Government of the Self’, Law and Critique, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 1-20, retrieved 10 April 2012, DOI 10.1007/s10978-012-9101-1, <>.

Ball, M 2011, ‘Governing Depression in Australian Legal Education: Power, Psychology and Advanced Liberal Government’, Legal Education Review, vol. 21, pp. 277-301.

Ball, M 2011, ‘Self-Government and the Fashioning of Resilient Personae: Legal Education, Criminal Justice, and the Government of Mental Health’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 97-111.

Ball, M 2010, ‘Legal Education and the ‘Idealistic Student’: Using Foucault to Unpack the Critical Legal Narrative’, Monash University Law Review, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 80-107.

Ball, MJ 2008, ‘A ‘deleterious’ effect?: Australian legal education and the production of the legal identity’, PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Ball, M 2007, ‘The Construction of the Legal Identity: Governmentality in Australian Legal Education’, Queensland University of Technology Law & Justice Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 444-63.