Positive Professional Identities for Law Students

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Our own Anna Huggins (soon to be QUT’s Anna Huggins) has made a big contribution to a very important book in legal education. Co-written with Rachael Field and James Duffy, Lawyering and Positive Professional Identities (Lexis Nexis Butterworths 2014) is a book I think all teaching legal academics could useful study. Here at UNSW Law it is worth noting that the curriculum Theme ‘Personal and Professional Development’ is perfectly on point with this book which is aimed at students primarily but I think would be a useful read for most legal people.

In our first year program we have been targeting personal and professional development through attempting to enhance students’ understanding of themselves, and their ability to reflect on themselves whether through mindfulness activities or in other ways. One thing the literature emphasises is that ethical issues often are the tipping point before someone drops out of law school or the profession; and in Introducing Law and Justice we try to introduce the idea that you need to be able to articulate your own values and then be able to assess legal ethics and practice in that light. The latter is then very much developed by the later subject Law Ethics and Justice which Justine Rogers convenes.

So, as always, we like it when someone agrees with us!

Prue Vines

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The joys of teaching outside

As occurs at this time of year as the seasons change, I found my classroom was like a furnace – the AC would not work while it seemed like the heating was going full blast.  Five minutes of teaching in that jungle-like condition convinced me that immediate action was required. A brief consultation with the students resulted in a plan for an alfresco class.  Ten minutes later we were set up in the fresh air, with a mobile whiteboard, all ready to discuss the ins and outs of international trade remedies.

I readily admit that classes held outside suffer from reduced student attention, increased distractions (in our case an ultimate frisbee game on the Oval), intrusive noise (a power roller working on the cricket pitch) and curious onlookers. Sometimes the local flora and fauna also conspire to undermine the learning – but not this time.  I also had no place to put my notes so they would be secure from the breeze and so I had to teach everything from memory (the finer points of anti-dumping duties ended up being overlooked).

BUT – there is something special about a class at the end of the semester that is held outside in the fresh Spring air.  Most of us fondly remember those experiences (albeit with no memory at all of the content of those classes).  Furthermore, I think a class on the grass, under the trees, in the wind and sun reflects the flexibility and open-minded approaches that are the hallmarks of academia.   At the end of the class, despite the challenges, I think we all agreed that it was an excellent class, one to be added to other prized law school memories.  Though if pressed, perhaps none of us could recall what we had discussed during those two fine hours.

Colin B. Picker

Do Charters ‘infantilise’ students?

Do charters infantilise students, as suggested in a recent article at the Times Higher Education? I think it probably depends on how it is done. Clarity in expectations is worthwhile and nothing is particularly wrong with contracts. I think at university, though, if you don’t know “I need to set aside time for private study”, you may just be in the wrong place. Better, I think, is a practical guide for students on how many hours they will need on average a week and/or how many hours of outside work is likely to put pressure on grades and/or life balance. I find students think they “need” to work 2-3 days a week, not necessarily for the money (obviously a different, and significant, issue), but because they think that it helps make them employable. We need to have conversations that help students make sensible choices so that university is not simply a pressurised study regime fit between days at work. I am not sure that charters are the best way to have such conversations.

Lyria Bennett Moses