Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)
Post-graduate practical legal training (PLT) is a mandatory eligibility requirement for those seeking admission to the Australian legal profession. PLT bridges foundational intellectual skills taught at law school and application of those skills in practice. Teachers for PLT (PLT practitioners) are recruited from the practising profession, with few holding educational qualifications or experience.
Currently, law graduates and legal educators face uncertainty and complexity due to changed economic circumstances, emergent technologies that subsume legal processes, and changes in policy. Increased scrutiny of structures and practices in legal education (such as the recently completed Australian Productivity Commission Inquiry into Access to Justice arrangements) confronts the field’s doxa, with implications for PLT teaching and learning practice.
A paucity of literature regarding scholarship of teaching and learning in Australian PLT sees scant sharing of scholarship in this field. My research studies individual and extra-individual dimensions of PLT practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in PLT. This qualitative research draws on Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and Certeau’s heterological science. It considers how structures are inscribed into practice and the potential for practice to mediate structures.
The research data includes documents (e.g. laws, policies, speeches, reports, histories), and semi-structured interviews with thirty-six PLT practitioners. Computer-aided qualitative data analysis was used to organise and analyse the data using explicit and emergent themes, and to visualise and write up insights.
This paper highlights struggles between dominant players focused on reproduction of dispositions and practices, how this impedes PLT practitioners’ engagement with the scholarship necessary to evolve teaching and learning that responds to the uncertainty and complexity facing graduate lawyers in the present and the future, and identifies opportunities for change and innovation.
Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)
Australian law graduates face a complex and uncertain future with decreasing employment opportunities due to national and global changes in professional recruitment and practices, including outsourcing of legal services and technological advances in legal processes and decision-making.
Whilst the world expects students and legal educators to be adaptable, have excellent communication skills and appropriate digital and information literacies, traditionally conservative legal education structures (precedent prevails) have resisted innovation and change in teaching and learning practice.
Scholarship of teaching and learning provides insights about the skills and dispositions required to access, filter and critically engage with new knowledge and new ways of knowing in professional legal education. However there is a paucity of scholarship of teaching and learning in the Australian professional legal education. In this context, the paper questions ad discusses Australian professional legal education's readiness to address the challenge of preparing graduates for the uncertainty and complexity of legal practice in a rapidly changing local and global circumstances.