#issotl14 Quebec City – “Professional Turns: the Juridical Field, PLT practitioners, and SoTL

I’ve been kept busy with travel from Melbourne to Quebec City and attending the International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning annual conference. Quebec City is lovely and people here are very friendly – if you haven’t visited I encourage you to do so.

Here’s a copy of my presentation for the conference. I am on tomorrow morning (Saturday 25 October) at 9.00 a.m., so wish me luck! I will post a bit more information about the presentation in the next few days.

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LIV Law Graduates of the Future Forum – Session One Notes

I accepted an invitation to be a panelist at “Law Graduates of the Future” forum in Melbourne this morning. My co-panelists were Richard Besley, CEO of the Secretariat for the Victorian Council of Legal Education and Board of Examiners, and Vicki Kennedy, proprietor of Spring Legal, a legal career service. I was unable to stay beyond my session, so hopefully someone will report on the forum elsewhere.

The central topic for this morning’s session concerned the perceived  “oversupply” of law graduates, and what should be done to better understand the current situation. This is not my area of expertise, but I sought to offer some insights from the pre-admission practical legal training perspective. What follows are my notes for a 5-minute presentation each panelist was asked to give before moving into questions and discussions.

My research focuses on institutional practical legal training in Australia (PLT). Institutional PLT is a mandatory requirement for admission to the profession, and must also include a work experience component. The research studies policy and regulation in PLT, and lawyers working as PLT practitioners. The research data includes interviews with 36 PLT practitioners around Australia. During the interviews, some interviewees made comments relevant to today’s discussion —

Most interviewees agreed there was a professional responsibility to the courts, the profession, and law graduates — to make sure law graduates achieve learning outcomes specified in the National Competency Standards.

A law degree is a prerequisite for undertaking PLT. Some interviewees said they encountered law graduates needing remedial support with foundational legal skills such as reasoning, research, writing, and drafting simple documents. Interviewees observed that law degrees involve 3-5 years full-time study around foundational legal skills, whereas PLT has about 15 weeks full-time (~30 weeks part-time) to teach professional practice skills, values, and practice areas, under the National Competency Standards. I notice the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC), as part of its submissions to the Productivity Commission “Access to Justice Arrangements” inquiry, commented that it was unreasonable to expect PLT to undertake such remedial work, given time and costs.

Work experience is a mandatory part of PLT admission requirements. Some interviewees said parts of the profession should “step up” to give work experience opportunities, and good quality work experiences. Some interviewees said many graduates employed at law firms were not allocated adequate time to undertake PLT coursework as a constructive learning experience, so that PLT coursework becomes a “tick-a-box” activity.

Many interviewees perceived law graduates were under enormous pressure – having spent years of study to complete a law degree, then complete PLT, whilst working to support themselves. Interviewees said many graduates were anxious about employment opportunities, and keenly aware of competition for these.

The interviewees’ comments are consistent with comments in reports from overseas. The “Legal Education and Training Review” in England and Wales, and the American Bar Association’s “Task Force on the Future of Legal Education”, explored new and possibly controversial approaches, with attention to the stratification, specialisation, breadth, and depth, of legal education. They expressly encouraged regulators to adopt flexible approaches to legal education and training. They contemplated new restricted and specialised education and qualifications that depart from a generalist approach, in response to changes to business structures, business procedures, and information communications and technology.

Rapidly emerging areas of computational and analytical methods in legal practice, including the use of big data, and decision-making applications, will re-shape some areas of practice. Practice innovations include outsourcing of procedural components of legal work. These changes respond to clients seeking set-price legal solutions. What legal practice “will look like” is changing for present and future law graduates.

It seems 19th and 20th century concepts of a lawyer are continuing to fragment. Change complicates and nuances questions about an “oversupply” of law graduates. Change has implications for clients, policy-makers, regulators, educators, and employers, in the legal field. We need to learn more about these implications, to anticipate and respond to them.

I support the proposal for in-depth research that asks questions about the “state of play” for established AND emergent factors in law graduates’ education and employment.  This research needs to dig deep to elicit qualitative insights. I notice that a recommendation in the  Productivity Commission’s “Access to Justice Arrangements” report  called for a ‘holistic review’ of all stages of legal education. There seems to be shared interests in further investigations.

 

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Concept Mapping Lave & Wenger’s ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’

I recently revisited Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s canonical work, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (1991, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). I am glad I did, because I had forgotten how Lave and Wenger’s theory of “legitimate peripheral participation” might intersect with the sociological dimensions of my research regarding PLT practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning.

For now, I might let the “exhibit speak for itself”. Click on the image for an enlarged view of the concept map. Click here, for a dynamic Prezi version.

Lave and Wenger Legitimate Peripheral Participation

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Research in Australian PLT – Has Much Changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Working with figshare

figsharekgI recently added 27 items to figshare, which is an excellent repository for storing your research outputs.

Outputs can include figures, datasets, media, papers, posters, presentations and filesets.

A lovely thing about this set up, is that figshare attaches a DOI (digital object identifier) to each item. This helps to make all the items capable of citation, and easy to share. Because each item has its own DOI, you can also “altmetric it”, using the Altmetric Bookmarklet. This can reveal whether the item has been shared on social media and online citation managers.

I think it is possible to use figshare for blog posts too. For example, you could save a blog post as a PDF file, upload it to figshare as a “paper”, and tag it as “blog”, together with other relevant tags. It is true that you can already cite a blog post with reference to its URL, but I’m wondering if attaching the post to a DOI might prove to be a more durable form of referencing for research purposes? See C. Titus Brown’s blog post (and the comments attached to it) for an interesting discussion about this last point.

I will be adding more materials to my figshare profile.

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S|M| i |L|E Social Media in Legal Education

twitteravatartisedIt is early days, but there is a new blog in town…

S|M| i |L|E  Social Media in Legal Education is a new collaborative project involving Australian legal academics. The project emerged out of discussions between four academics attending the Australasian Law Teachers Association annual conference at Bond University (Gold Coast, Queensland) during July 2014. It aims to be a useful resource for academics, ECRs and HDR students, law students, and legal practitioners.

 

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Storified Tweets from #alta2014 Annual Conference

Missed the 2014 Australasian Law Teachers Association annual conference? Or trying to remember that key point? These storified tweets might take you there…

 

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#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.

 

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