More than lawyer factories: The social obligation of law schools

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Length: 24:53 min


The contemporary dominance of vocationalism within higher education, as evidenced by the frequent assertion that universities’ principal responsibly is to produce ‘job ready’ graduates, is understandable if not inevitable given the cultural predominance of neoliberalism. But as many critics of this dominance have pointed out, the contemporary emphasis upon graduate employability comes at a cost. This article examines one of those costs: the de-emphasis of the obligation of universities to contribute to the public good in other ways. The focus is upon the status of this obligation within the discipline of law. It examines the social role that law schools can and should play, including preserving and enhancing disciplinary knowledge, using the talent and expertise amongst its students, scholars and professional partners to assist the community, and inspiring law students and law graduates to develop an ethics of care. It identifies the social and political contingencies that motivate law schools to disregard this role, and presents examples of law schools that remain nevertheless committed to serving the public good. It concludes by offering law school leaders some rationales and strategies for recognising and operationalising that commitment in the current climate.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020
Event2020 Professional Legal Education Conference: Harmonising Legal Education: Aligning the Stages in Lifelong Learning for Lawyers - Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 1 Oct 20203 Oct 2020


Conference2020 Professional Legal Education Conference
CityGold Coast
OtherBond University’s Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLE) was proud to host the 2020 Professional Legal Education conference on the theme of ‘Harmonising Legal Education: Aligning the Stages in Lifelong Learning for Lawyers’, in partnership with the Australasian Law Academics Association (ALAA), the Law Wellness Network and Voiceless.

The three main stages in the lifelong learning journey of the typical lawyer are the completion of the law degree (the Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor); satisfaction of the practical training requirements for admission with either a traineeship or a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (PLT); and post-admission education in the form of continuing professional development, specialist accreditation or postgraduate study such as a Master of Laws. All three stages have been subjected to criticism by various stakeholders. Employers complain that the content of the law degree does not reflect the reality of contemporary legal practice and that new law graduates must ‘unlearn’ what they have learned at law school. New lawyers complain that PLT fails to adequately prepare them for the legal workplace. Law schools allege that CPD is inadequately rigorous and law societies allege that formal postgraduate study is of little benefit to practitioners. Some criticisms are the result of ignorance of what occurs in the relevant stage of the learning journey. Other criticisms have merit and could be addressed by greater collaboration between those responsible for each stage of the journey

This conference will seek to facilitate greater alignment between the stages in the educational journey of lawyers by bringing together legal academics, legal practitioners, law students, PLT trainers, CPD providers, law societies, law librarians, regulators, administrators and others to share their insights and experiences, learn from each other, and collaborate on the harmonisation of professional legal education.
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