Law Student Mental Health

By Lyria Bennett Moses

The Conversation recently published a short article on the issue of mental health for law students. The article suggests that part of the problem is that “[s]tudents are often taught from day one to separate law from justice, and to approach each problem with dispassionate analytic skills.”

While that may be a stereotypical vision of legal education, at least at UNSW Law there is a strong emphasis on integrating discussions about law with discussions about justice (while acknowledging that legal outcomes may not always be just). Despite that, mental health is still an important concern.

In my experience, a lot of depression comes not from how law is taught, but due to the fact that undergraduate students choose to study law relatively early in their lives, often because they received a good ATAR (Year 12 exam entrance rank) and sometimes under pressure from parents. At an undergraduate level, a combined law degree takes at least 5 years to complete – which is a long time to study something one no longer enjoys. But this is purely anecdotal, based on conversations with particular students experiencing depression.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Threshold learning outcomes and good practice guides for a law degree

By Alex Steel

Many Australian legal educators  would already know of the work that Sally Kift, Mark Israel and Rachael Field did in developing a set of Threshold Learning Outcomes for the LLB in 2010.  But others in Australia and certainly outside Australia probably do not know of these developments.  In case you don’t, there are 6 TLOs that represent the minimum learning outcomes expected of any graduate of an Australian Bachelor of Laws degree.  Similar TLO’s exist for the postgraduate law degree, the JD.  While perhaps not exactly transferable to non-Australian legal education, they should nonetheless be extremely relevant to other common law and some civil law legal education systems.

These TLO’s are important because:

  • they capture both what many see as what the key elements of a law degree should be – a sort of minimum best practice;
  • they are becoming a set of self-regulatory standards for law schools (they have been endorsed by the Council of Australian Law Deans(“CALD”), and are now incorporated in the CALD Standards for Australian Law Schools);
  • increasing numbers of Australian law schools are using them as the basis for their degree learning outcomes.

So, what do they mean, and how do you implement them in a degree?

Continue reading

Teaching Private Law from a Critical Perspective

In addition to short blogs about legal education (teaching, research, admin, etc), this blog will also post occasional notices of interesting articles, news, and events of relevance to legal education.

As the first of such short posts, our colleague Ben Golder has drawn our attention to an interesting article “The Political in the Contract Classroom” by Mairead Enright, appearing in the Public Life of the Private Law.  An interesting read.  the article concerns “teaching private law from a critical perspective.”

Australian Legal Education – Excess Capacity? A Crisis in the Making?

By Colin Picker

Those that follow American legal education will be all too aware of the current over or excess capacity in U.S. legal education that has resulted from plummeting applications to U.S. law schools.  There are many reasons for the decline in U.S. law school applications, but perhaps the most widely discussed has been the slow down and transformation of the U.S. legal market.  The GFC and changes in how law firms operate have combined to reduce employment prospects for graduates of American law schools.  When deciding whether to invest three years and significant money in a law degree, many who would otherwise have gone to a U.S. law school have decided to pursue other options or to wait until times are better.  Most U.S. law schools have faced problems maintaining standards as those application numbers have dropped.  Responses have been draconian (see here). One response has been to decrease entering class sizes.  Another has been to consider mergers between law schools.  Another may eventually be to shut down law schools. Even before that extreme step, it is now common to hear of hiring freezes, mass early retirements, and, in the most extreme cases, the elimination of positions and the firing of academic and other staff.

But what about Australia.  Do Australian law school and law academics and staff have anything to worry about? Continue reading

Student Participation in Class – how important is it?

Alex Steel, UNSW Law

There is a lot of research around that argues that students who are more engaged in class learn better.  For law students the simplest form of engagement is to contribute to classroom discussion.  That’s not always been the case – until the 1970’s Australian law students received most of their legal education via lectures.

Since then more emphasis has been placed on encouraging student discussion as part of the learning process – often called active learning.  For some law schools this participation occurs in tutorials, for others it occurs through seminar style classes that replace lectures. In some law schools this participation is part of the formal assessment (assessed class participation (ACP)). Continue reading

The Missing Middle in Legal Education

Flood

Our first post comes from Professor John Flood, of the University of Westminster, London. John visited UNSW Law, among other Australian university law schools, early this year. John is a great early poster – apart from having serious expertise in the sociology of lawyers and the future of legal education and legal work, John is himself a veteran blogger. John writes:

June 2013 marked the publication of the Legal Education and Training Review report (LETR) in the UK. Two years of research commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board, and ILEX Professional Standards. Three hundred and fifty pages later, we are not much further forward. Continue reading