I have posted about this before, but given public policy debates on issues such as inequality, refugees, climate change, etc, I thought it might be useful to post this simplified model of ethical decision-making again. I contend that decision-makers are obliged to make explicit the process by which a position is chosen. The notion of “accountability” implies that an account of a decision should be possible, before the decision is acted on. The same applies to subsequent reviews, i.e. “should we continue to act as we have done?” It seems to me many policy decisions prefer economics and utility, to values, ethics, consequences, dispositions, and character. Undoubtedly many policies involve complex considerations. As part of this we can use some simple tools to tease out the threads of difficult problems.
The Productivity Commission has released its, ‘Access to Justice Arrangements, Draft Report Overview’.
The terms of reference include:
- the factors that contribute to the cost of legal representation in Australia, including analysis of:
- the supply of law graduates and barriers to entering the legal services market…
The overview records DRAFT RECOMMENDATION 7.1:
The Commonwealth Government, in consultation with state and territory governments, jurisdictional legal authorities, universities and the profession, should conduct a holistic review of the current status of the three stages of legal education (university, practical legal training and obtaining a practising certificate). The review should consider:
• the appropriate role of, and overall balance between, each of the three stages of legal education and training
• the ongoing need for the ‘Priestley 11’ core subjects in law degrees
• the best way to incorporate the full range of legal dispute resolution options, including non-adversarial and non-court (such as tribunal) options, and the ability to match the most appropriate resolution option to the dispute type and characteristics, into one (or more) of the stages of legal education
• the relative merits of increased clinical legal education at the university or practical training stages of education
• the nature of tasks that could appropriately be conducted by individuals who have been admitted to practise but do not hold practising certificates.”
A “holistic review” of the “three stages” of legal education might produce interesting further recommendations, particularly in respect of “increased clinical legal education” at the university or practical training stages”.
I wonder, assuming the intent is to improve access to legal education as part of the broader access to justice project, whether increased clinical legal education requirements might actually reduce numbers able to apply for admission to the profession (or is that the idea?). I anticipate additional legal clinics would need to be established and the resources for these must come from somewhere.
I support the quest for expanded clinical legal education and work experience opportunities, but substantial resources must be allocated to these. In the current economic and political environment, one wonders if the will is there. And if the will is not there, what are the consequences for diversity, equity, parity, and social justice in legal education?