APLEC 2012 conference, University of Technology, Sydney

by Paul Maharg on 12/11/2011

I’m at the APLEC conference (Australasian Professional Legal Education Council), held this year in UTS, Sydney, having been invited by Maxine Evers to give one of the keynotes at the conference on the Friday am.  Slides for that are over on the Slides page. On the Thursday pm prior to the conference I gave a staff seminar for UTS staff, talking about issues arising from the concept of democratic professionalism, analysing case studies including regulatory issues from Scotland and LETR.  I also gave an optional two-hour conference workshop on ‘OER, Simshare and SIMPLE: learning professionalism through simulated practice’. It all worked out pretty well, thanks to excellent support from Jenny Eggleton, Sophie Riley and Chris Cruise. Great questions and comments, especially at the workshop. I knew from my work with ANU that there was real interest shown in sims in AU professional legal programmes, but the level of detailed questions from the floor was amazing, and so heartening. Someone asked afterwards if there were training videos for SIMPLE — there are, and they’re at this link.

APLEC is a conference for professional legal educators but the experience of being here demonstrated once again how important it is for each side of the Great Rift Valley of legal education, academics and professional educators, to talk to one another and learn from each other. At the conference there were many examples of heuristics that can be embedded quite easily into the undergrad degree structures in AU, and exactly the same could be said of England and Wales, Scotland and pretty much any common law & mixed jurisdiction. Nor is the traffic across the divide one way. Many of us have been saying this for some time. In my article on William Twining’s inaugural 1967 lecture at Queen’s U Belfast for the International Journal of the Legal Profession I argue for convergence of the two, much as he did then, much as the realists argued for a new conception of the relationship.  More on that later.

The epigraph to Twining’s seminal inaugural 1967 lecture at Queen’s U Belfast was one I put at the head of my slides in the keynote — Miranda’s breathless words to her father, Prospero — ‘O braue new world / that has such people in’t’, and Prospero’s ironic rejoinder, ”Tis new to thee’. The theme of the conference was ‘The times they are a-changing’, and change is one of the many levels of meaning in The Tempest. The play has at its heart the necessity of transformation in human affairs — in the words of Ariel’s song we undergo a sea-change, a transformation into something rich and strange. In the play there are transitions that must be undergone — the necessary working through of guilt and forgiveness for some of the characters, for instance.  Transformation, on any level, is never easy, but it’s essential if our education in the law and justice is to be more than merely superficial cramming, and if it is to be rooted in the reality of the human condition.

Now that I’ve written that, I wish I’d said it in the keynote.  Ach well…

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