With the news that Charles Sturt University will be offering an online LLB in 2016, Australia is fast approaching a situation where every full university has a law school. In terms of public universities only Federation University is still without a law school.
In addition, accredited law schools exist in the private universities of Bond, Australian Catholic and Notre Dame, and from 2016 the private non-university provider of Top Education Institute.
That makes 38 accredited law schools pumping out increasing numbers of law students. The number of graduate legal positions isn’t exponentially increasing as the graduates do. Medicine has a model of only admitting as many students as the profession needs. Clearly that approach is wrong for law. While a fully qualified medical student might be unemployable in any other field, or the cost of their education is so great that the taxpayer can’t justify medical qualifications for other fields, neither argument applies for law.
A law degree is a valuable basis for a range of professions, and generally as a formative start to life-long learning. But the huge number of law schools does raise the awkward question of how to see – and truthfully market – a law degree as both a possible path to legal practice and as also an adjunct to another career. As a discipline are we largely now training non-lawyers in most law schools? Is this also having a deleterious effect on students wanting to become lawyers, who are now increasingly being told that to get a look-in at an interview they will need a swag of extra curricula acheivements/volunteering and probably years as a paralegal – all of which leaves less time for actually studying law.