03 December 2014

Legal Teaching

Recommendation 7.1 in the Productivity Commission Access To Justice report noted here is that -
The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council, in consultation with universities and the professions, should conduct a systemic review of the current status of the three stages of legal education (university, practical legal training and continuing professional development).
The review should commence in 2015 and consider the:
  • appropriate role of, and overall balance between, each of the three stages of legal education and training 
  • ongoing need for each of the core areas of knowledge in law degrees, as currently specified in the 11 Academic Requirements for Admission, and their relevance to legal practice 
  • best way to incorporate the full range of legal dispute resolution options, including non adversarial and non court options, and the ability to match the most appropriate resolution option to the dispute type and characteristics into one (or more) of the stages of legal education 
  • relative merits of increased clinical legal education at the university or practical training stages of education 
  • regulatory oversight for each stage, including the nature of tasks that could appropriately be conducted by individuals who have completed each stage of education, and any potential to consolidate roles in regulating admission, practising certificates and continuing professional development.
Consideration should be given to the Western Australian and Victorian models in this regard. The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council should consider the recommendations of the review in time to enable implementation of outcomes by the commencement of the 2017 academic year.
The recommendation reflects the Commission's conclusion that -
An efficient and responsive legal profession improves access to justice.
There are several elements that affect the quality of, and competition in, legal services markets — the education and training of lawyers, their entry into the profession, and the regulation of the profession itself.
The education and training of law students influences the future legal profession. – Despite concerns about a potential oversupply of graduates, there is no policy rationale in the legal market — beyond ensuring baseline quality standards — for restricting numbers. – While there are examples of leading practices in various institutions, a systemic review of the legal education system is overdue. More emphasis should be placed on skills, rather than accumulating knowledge. The systemic review should examine:
  • the need for each of the current 11 Academic Requirements 
  • including alternative dispute resolution as a required area of study 
  • practical training, including pro bono placements, interpersonal skills and business management courses 
  • the necessity, role and conduct of separate admission and practising certificate requirements.
More radical changes in legal education would only be effective if coupled with reforms to the profession. – Building on existing examples, ‘limited licences’ should be implemented to allow appropriately qualified professionals to perform select tasks in particular areas that are currently the exclusive domain of lawyers.
Specific advertising restrictions appear unnecessary given broader economywide regulation and general legal professional standards of conduct.
While restrictions on professional indemnity insurance can be justified on consumer protection grounds, they should be subject to periodic independent review to ensure they remain a targeted and proportionate response to the problem.
Implementation of the National Legal Profession Reform, which was initiated in 2009, has been stymied by jurisdictional differences. – Progress made by Victoria and New South Wales provides other jurisdictions with a ‘preview’ of the benefits of reforms. Further gains depend on evaluation of these reforms.