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

So I like this book: look at the chapters! There are chapters on Positive Professional Identity for Lawyers, Lawyers as Reflective Professionals, Lawyers as Lifelong Independent Learners, Lawyers as Ethical Decision-makers and Lawyers as Upholders of the Rule of Law, among other things. There are other chapters too, focusing on the development of skills and capacities in relation to these things, but these topics are some of the bees in my bonnet! And there is strong research evidence in relation to these things which is explored in some depth but with a light enough touch that I think the reader will be engaged and willing to go along with it. I would like to add this to the books we make compulsory for our first years – at present these are my book, Law and Justice in Australia, 3rd ed, OUP 2013; Connecting With Torts (OUP, 20132) by Julia Davis, which is a brilliant guide to the development of a sophisticated argumentative framework for answering torts ( and by extension, other problems). Adding this book to the mix would, I think, create the perfect triumvirate for establishing a foundation for law students able to think like lawyers, maintain and develop their relationships and values, focus on law as a profession and enjoy the richness that should be possible (if it isn’t already) in a law degree and a legal career.

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