Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Developing an holistic professional identity in first year law students (#169)

Tania Leiman 1 , Deborah Ankor 1
  1. Flinders Law School/Flinders Legal Advice Clinic, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 Flinders Law School’s Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice [LLBLP] leads to direct admission as a legal practitioner, explicitly embedding specific legal professional skills throughout its curriculum.  It links incremental and interlaced experiential learning opportunities horizontally and vertically across the LLBLP from enrolment onwards and supports students as they develop a positive identity as a holistic legal professional (Field, Duffy, & Huggins, 2014).


This presentation showcases the innovative First Year Clinic Placement program [FYCP] initiative at Flinders Law School. Commencing in March 2014, offered through the Flinders Legal Advice Clinic and embedded in a first year LLBLP subject, FYCP gives students a hands-on opportunity to look toward the outcome of their studies and envision themselves as future professionals.


FYCP is designed to allow students to gain insight into the skills required by competent legal professionals at an early stage in the degree. It exposes them to ‘the kind of [real life] knowledge that makes explicit what was tacit and generates a richer understanding about practice’ (Dall’Alba & Sandberg, 2010). It offers a glimpse of ‘self-understanding’ of what it may mean for them to be a professional in this discipline. In stimulating and refining for students the values, ideals, hopes and inspirations that start to shape professional identity (Sullivan et al, 2007) it assists them toform their personal narrative of a way of being in the world and challenges them to consider how this aligns with accepted values governing the legal and other professions (Willis & Leiman, 2013).


Evaluation of pre-entry and exit questionnaires completed by participants has demonstrated benefits to students in building motivation and purpose, connection with the discipline, and with the legal and wider community.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

The legal services sector, both locally and globally, is facing seismic change including globalization, unbundling of services, outsourcing, technological advances and disruptive innovation. Lawyers in the 21st century may have very different roles from those in previous generations, and employment markets are highly competitive. With the increase in the number of Australian law schools over recent years, the supply of Australian law graduates currently outstrips demand, and this is paralleled in the UK and USA (Susskind, 2013).  This changing professional environment presents both considerable challenges and significant opportunities for students entering their law degrees in 2015 and beyond. In order to engage successfully with these complex and continually evolving work environments, students are required to build high quality professional skills transferrable well beyond the traditional legal context. Law Schools too must respond to these changes and challenges if they are to educate law graduates who are responsive and adaptable professionals   in the 21st century.