#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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#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…

APLEC2014_Sung_Welcome
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?
  3. 
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.

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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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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.

 

 

 

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What I’m talking about at #ALTA2014 next week

alta2014Next week, at #ALTA2014, I will talk about how PLT is “enclosed” by discursive operations that constrain scholarly activities of PLT practitioners around their teaching and learning work. I suspect this constraint impedes theory and practice about “practice”, in legal professional education and training.

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.

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Bibliometrics, #legaled and PLT

This is a quick aside regarding some research I’m doing at the moment. I am analysing 10 articles concerning PLT and scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”), using bibliometrics. This includes looking at the citation counts for the articles, and for the items cited in the articles, together with the bibliometric tools supplied by Google Scholar, Web of Knowledge (Journal Citation Report), and Scopus (SCImago).

It would not be news to law school academics that legal education journals, and many law journals, do not rank highly in these bibliometric tools, if at all. The citation counts for articles engaging with SoTL in PLT are nearly non-existent (although it takes time for services like Google Scholar to pick these up). I’m interested in promoting SoTL in PLT, so I’m thinking about strategies to achieve this.

It seems that conventional bibliometric tools are not a lot of help when measuring impact, quality and engagement for these articles. I’m hoping my institution will connect to an altmetrics database so I can explore alternative tools. Because the articles are not appearing in the conventional databases, I’ve had to manually search for citations, journal rankings, etc – very tedious, but generative.

I find it interesting how publishing in or citing articles from interdisciplinary publications can improve citation counts for an articles. Those articles that tap into areas like psychology, ICT, or management/organisational studies appear more likely to be cited and shared.

I’m also interested how “mediatizing” scholarship and research through social media, SlideShare, YouTube, Prezi, etc can expedite dissemination – more on this later.

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Paper plug: ‘Gatecrashing the Research Paradigm…’

MonashNice to see Monash University Library directing law students to our co-authored article ‘Gatecrashing the Research Paradigm: Effective Integration of Online Technologies in Maximising Research Impact and Engagement in Legal Education’*

* Kate Galloway, Kristoffer Greaves and Melissa Castan, ‘Gatecrashing The Research Paradigm: Effective Integration Of Online Technologies In Maximising Research Impact And Engagement In Legal Education’ (2013) 6 (1/2) Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 83.

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Quick Look – Submissions re PLT to Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Inquiry

Access to Justice Arrangements Productivity Commission Draft RepIn my previous post I referred to the Australian Productivity Commission’s overview of its Draft Report regarding Access to Justice, released 8 April 2014.

The Commission received 190 submissions, of which 36 are post-draft report submissions.

As far as I can tell, about 8 submissions are from either a law school, or an academic connected to a law school. There does not appear to be any submissions from a PLT provider, which is surprising given the terms of of the report and the recommendations referred to in my previous post.

I have quickly examined the 190 submissions in relation to the topic of practical legal training (PLT). Just 11 submissions mention PLT at all, and of these about one third might be substantive submissions. I provide the following summary of these submissions, with the caveat that this is the product of a quick perusal and errors and omissions should not be imputed to those cited.

Submission 169 – Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC):

p. 2 at 2.6 – criticises the draft report for failing to ‘either to acknowledge, or in formulating its Recommendation 7.1 to take account of, the further significant roles of the Academic Requirements as referents for determining the adequacy of the training of overseas lawyers and the additional training they require before becoming eligible for admission in Australia; as constituting the common threshold for sequential PLT training in Australian PLT courses’.

p. 3 at 2.12 –  observes, ‘the Draft Report incorrectly asserts that, in the current education and training of lawyers “there is no requirement for the study of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)”‘, pointing out that early dispute resolution is included in the National Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers.

p. 6 at 3.4(a) – notes the ‘aspiration’ of the academic and PLT requirements for admission, ‘is to develop threshold competence, appropriate to someone beginning a life in the law, rather than sophisticated or advanced knowledge or expertise’.

p. 6 at 3.4(b) – states  ‘the 11 Academic Requirements and PLT Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers are national referents for determining what additional training must be undertaken by overseas applicants who wish to prepare for admission to the legal profession in Australia’.

p. 7 at 3.4(c) – states ‘The national PLT Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers assume that all those proceeding to undertake sequential PLT courses have attained threshold and common understanding in each of the areas of knowledge comprised in the 11 Academic Requirements. Given the limited duration of such PLT courses, it is impractical for them either to offer remedial training to some students who are not adequately prepared in some of these common areas of knowledge, or to extend their courses to cater to those who are not appropriately prepared. Further, to do so would increase the costs of the practical legal training stage of legal education unnecessarily.’

p. 8 at 4.1 – ‘In evaluating the ALRC’s [Australian Law Reform Commission] suggestions about the need for training in broad generic professional skills development, it is important to note that the ALRC Report predated the introduction of the comprehensive and explicit national PLT Competency Standards for Entry-level Lawyers which were not endorsed by all Admitting Authorities until 2002. Since that time, all PLT courses have been required to ensure that every person presenting for admission has received practical legal training in, and acquired and demonstrated entry-level competence in, many matters relevant to modern legal practice – including ADR.’

pp. 11-12 at 5 – ‘…when a person is seeking admission, it may be relevant to enquire whether the person has the relevant academic and PLT qualifications and whether the person has been disciplined by an academic institution for, say, plagiarism or cheating.’
‘It is, however, true that many law graduates proceed to undertake PLT and seek admission to the legal profession, but do not thereafter seek to practise law…’
‘The suggestion that there is a need to consider what legal tasks can appropriately be performed by legal graduates without practising certificates fails to recognise the large numbers of lawyers who are already employed in legal capacities on legal tasks in business or government and who do not require practising certificates. This has happened for many years. Indeed, Admitting Authorities have recently had to grapple with the problem of stale qualifications because of law graduates seeking admission to the legal profession many years after they have obtained legal academic and PLT qualifications, who are now employed as lawyers in senior government positions.’

p. 12 at 7 – ‘The Commission is apparently unaware of the requirement of item 5.3 of the national PLT Competency Standards for Entry-level Lawyers, which every applicant for admission since 2003 is required to acquire and to demonstrate before becoming eligible for admission to the legal profession.’ Item 5.3 of the PLT competency standards effective January 2015 refers to the Civil Litigation Practice competency.

Submission 10 – Christopher Enright (proprietor of Maitland Press):

p. 93 – ‘Chapter 14: Internship for Trainee Lawyers. Make working in legal aid for a period, say of two or three months, part of the practical legal training (PLT) for novice lawyers. Deploy the novices in preparing documented cases for clients. There are two benefits from this – the novices would be on a relatively low wage, which keeps costs down, and at the same time these novices receive intensive and supervised training and experience in the basic tasks for litigation.’
p. 95 – ‘Newly graduated lawyers. One possibility is to incorporate into their practical legal training a period of say three months where they are an intern in a legal aid office.’
p. 100 ‘Indeed, it would be possible to include a placement in a legal aid office as an optional or even compulsory part of practical legal training. This could involve instruction and supervised practice in the following matters:
1. Office management. 2. File management.
3. Interviewing a client.
4. Advising a client.
5. Interviewing a witness.
6. Writing a statement of evidence of a witness. 7. Preparing documents for a client’s case.
8. Ethics, with special emphasis on litigation.’

Submission 92 – Dr Liz Curran (ANU):

p. 2 – refers to own teaching experience in ANU Legal Workshop’s GDLP.
p. 12 – ‘Clinical and some Practical Legal Training Programs at universities do great work engaging students in supervised service delivery to community members experiencing disadvantage.’
p. 15 – ‘Is the current regulatory framework for legal practitioners appropriate? The National Legal Profession Reform process is taking a long time. There are sometimes, among the various admitting authorities and others examining admission to practice, in some states and territories, arbitrary decisions taken with little or no evidence or a level of sophistication about developments in practical legal education and effective learning for practice in the current world. There is much national and international work in the practical legal training and legal education spheres that could inform such conversations.’

Submission 181 – UNSW Law School:

p. 1 – ‘Lawyers need first-class black-letter skills, but that is not enough. Equally, we should not be a trade school providing practical legal training.’
p. 2 – “The steps of legal training  – Your report describes the steps as being university education, PLT, and obtaining a practising certificate. The last of these is not training, but recognition that the first 2 steps have been completed. In its place, it would be more appropriate to include the on-the-job training that young lawyers get when they join law firms or other employers.’
Attachment to Submission 181 – Themes of law school curricula: ‘A third is skills and capabilities (not in terms of detailed practical legal training, but rather in communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving).’

Submission 114 – Adrian Evans (Monash University):

p. 1 – ‘There is little general morality or even general legal ethics education during law school and certainly none post law school in the PLT phase of legal education.’

Submission 171 – Adrian Evans (post-draft submission):

p. 1 – proposes consideration of ‘the relative merits of increased clinical legal education [CLE] at the university or practical training stages of education’. CLE methods can work in a PLT environment, but these are time-pressured and increasingly online environments where the ability to interact face-to-face with a number of (real) clients over many weeks, is considered to be impractical and/or uneconomic.’

Submissions that mention PLT in passing:

Submissions 34 (NSW Bar Association), 91 (National Association of Community Legal Centres), 96 (Law Council of Australia), 139 (Law Society of South Australia), 174 (Law Society of NSW) each mention PLT in passing, usually with reference to admission requirements.

Public Hearings

The Productivity Commission will hold public hearings commencing in Canberra on 2 June, and in other capital cities.

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“Forks of Law” at #britsoc14 BSA annual conference

I will present at Roundtable Session 29 (Sports Hall 2) on Friday 25 April at the British Sociological Association annual conference at Leeds University. The images below are from my introductory handout.

BSA handout p. 1
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BSA handout p. 2
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BSA handout p. 3
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BSA handout p. 4
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10 Reasons Why Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Matters in PLT

10 Reasons(1) ‘Teaching makes learning possible’, whereas scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) shows how ‘learning is made possible’.[1]

(2) SoTL raises ’the status of teaching’, (3) supports practitioners ‘to teach more knowledgeably’, (4) enables assessment of ‘quality of teaching’, (5) improves learning experiences of lawyers-to-be.[2]

(6) Professionalism – a sense of professionalism and responsibility. This involves a PLT practitioner’s profession, both as a lawyer and educator.[4]

(7) Pragmatism – recognition that SoTL informs teaching and learning work in a way that is ‘transparent’ to external scrutiny, and informs individual practice.[5]

(8) Policy – recognition of ‘national, state and local policy’, including policies of legal regulators, admission boards, and higher education regulators.[6] Earn a seat at the policy-making table.

(9) Legislative intent of mandatory PLT includes improvement of the protection of clients, improve the administration of justice, and assure quality legal services.

(10) Learning more about how teaching and learning works, using that knowledge, helps us to do PLT “better”, rewards our efforts as PLT practitioners (self-actualisation).


[1] Mick Healey, ‘Developing the scholarship of teaching in higher education: a discipline-based approach’ (2000) 19(2) Higher Education Research and Development 169 (italics added) 70-71.

[2] Keith Trigwell and Suzanne Shale, ‘Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching’ (2004) 29(4) Studies in Higher Education 523

[3] Lee S Shulman, ‘From Minsk to Pinsk: Why a scholarship of teaching and learning’ (2000) 1(1) Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 48

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 50.

[6] Ibid, 52.

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