Access to justice – making it come alive and a reality for students and enabling engaged future practitioners (PM)

by Paul Maharg on 21/06/2015

Liz Curran next, from ANU.  She teaches on the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice there, which has simulations, working in teams, etc.  She still works in legal practice, and publishes widely on integrated service delivery, a2j, ethics, clinical legal education and human rights.

She defined the differences between clinics and practical legal education placement programmes.  The latter are ‘designed to provide opportunities to acquire practical legal skills’.  She demonstrated the use of role plays derived from real life experiences of clients/lawyers to make the law come alive and engage future practitioners — four examples, below.  She discussed examples from the Practical Legal Training course at ANU, particularly the ‘Becoming a Practitioner’ (BAP) Course, ANU Legal Workshop, focusing on group dynamics, as a preliminary to team work on the Course and the rest of the PLT.

Example 1
In the first activity a couple of students take on a designated negative role and the whole group must provide an advice in 10 minutes to the Senior Partner because it is urgent.  In the second, the students take on positive roles and in 10 minutes also have to provide advice.  These are based on real-life cases and students are advised of the real life outcomes after their final debrief (after each activity).  There are secret instructions for students in the role play.  Second scenario as follows:


Example 2
Two role plays for client interviews from difficult or vulnerable backgrounds, eg


Liz demonstrated the types of behaviours by students in the role plays — with debrief on how did you feel, what did you want to do, how successful was it, and many other questions.

Example 3
Improving the legal system’s operation.  This assessment involved students in law reform through assignments eg Law Reform project where, if good enough (eg A+ – they identify the decision-make and send to the decision-maker).

Example 4
Use of Journaling.  In PIP students are required to keep a number of journal entries which have guiding questions that encourage reflection.  The focus is on concrete examples of what worked and why

Good workshop paper and discussion about role play, the advantages and the problems that can arise from its use, including one’s own emotional boundaries, role of knowledge, emotion and skills.  And here’s a first for this liveblogger — Nigel Duncan was the scribe for his group, and emailed his group’s discussion summary to me:

We all use real cases as students rarely believe that this can really have happened, eg big rail disaster as basis for the entire module – health and safety course.

Can use them to develop practice skills.

Can use them as a teaching device to teach concepts of how the law relates to what is going on in the world and how people are responding to it.

Using skills is also a valuable vehicle for learning the law – brings it alive.

Contract, for example, if taught through the classic cases, is very remote to people’s experience – so using real situations makes it very much more relevant to students.

If based on pending litigation must anonymise.

Ernesto – how do we make cases come alive. We need to help students to undertake role play. It can be very stressful. This is particularly an issue with international students who have been brought up in a completely different approach towards educational practice. – perhaps video actors undertaking the roles, particularly in very challenging situations – for students to observe.

Great idea!  Must build that into future workshop design.  Big learning moment for me…

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