The purpose, content, and approach of legal education together create the lawyer many of our students will become. Beyond discipline knowledge, the skills and attitudes the law graduate brings to the profession find their foundation in the experiences of the student in law school. In turn, through their actions in legal practice, the law graduate-cum-lawyer performs, and arguably, creates the law. Legal education is thus not only integral to law, but might validly be seen as law itself.
Based on the premise that legal education is law, the debates within law including about its purpose—positivist, doctrinal, critical, normative, etc—are reflected within legal education. By extension, these positions are reflected within the scholarship of legal education (‘SoLE’) whether explicitly or implicitly: where the educational standpoint of a legal education scholar reflects their own discipline identity and commitment to the law. Just as legal scholarship reflects diverse forms and perspectives, so too will SoLE. These standpoints all form part of the ‘performance’ of law.
This paper reports on a pilot project seeking to develop a taxonomy of SoLE research papers published in a sample of Australian journals between 2006–2017, according to three domains: the article’s contribution to the discourse of legal education; the style of educational research; and what we describe as themes of research. Themes relate to recognized trends in legal education—recently exemplified by the interest in student wellbeing. While some themes represent a particular episode, or respond to a particular period, others persist over time.
The aim of this research is to recognise and chart the diversity of SoLE. In doing so, the resulting taxonomy is designed to make explicit the methods, approaches, and purposes of legal education scholarship as a reflection of the intersection of scholars’ discipline practices in both law and education, as both teachers and as researchers, as both lawyers and teachers. Through description and theorization of legal education research, it substantiates the contribution of SoLE to the legal academy, and to law and legal practice, within an explicit research framework.