Emerging Legal Education: a new publisher, two new books

by Paul Maharg on 26/04/2016

Emerging Legal Education, our Ashgate book series on legal education, is now a Routledge series, following the merging of Ashgate Publishing and Gower Books into the Taylor and Francis Group, which in turn is a division of the giant Informa Plc.  A few glitches with books not rendering properly on the web page but I’m sure a global conglomerate publisher like T&F, with its massive revenues accrued from academic journal publishing, will sort it out…  While it goes without saying that as series editors, Meera, Beth and I think all the publications in the series are important contributions to legal educational theory and/or practice, we’re especially pleased with the last two publications, and for these reasons…

Last first — just published, in e-format at least, print version soon to follow — is Promoting Law Student and Lawyer Well-Being in Australia and Beyond, edited by Rachael Field and James Duffy from QUT School of Law, and Colin James from ANU College of Law.

I first came across Rachael’s work in her well-being network, established as part of her 2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellowship, at the Symposium organised by the LETR in Manchester England, July 2012, where she presented it together with the work on threshold learning outcomes.[1]  I liveblogged the session, and was so impressed that I immediately asked her after it to consider publishing in ELE, which I’m glad she did.

The book is effectively a summary of the research that has been carried out in Australia on the subject of well-being in legal education and in the legal profession, and by the leading practitioners in this emerging field.  Actually that rather anaemic description doesn’t do it justice.  Here’s Sally Kift on the back cover:

Drawing on an increasingly rich body of multi-disciplinary scholarship, this work delivers a critical quantum leap in thinking and theorising around the dual imperatives of promoting future practitioners’ mental health and proactively addressing the potential for psychological distress. Arguing that we can no longer leave professional mental well-being to chance, this book asks and answers hard questions about our duty in the Academy to do no further harm. The contribution is timely, astute and strongly commended.

And here’s the chapter listing:

  • Valuing persons and communities in doing wellness for law well / Stephen Tang
  • Towards an integrated, whole-school approach to promoting law student well being / Wendy Larcombe
  • The persistence of distress / Paula Baron
  • Law student lifestyle pressures / Alex Steel and Anna Huggins
  • The relationship between class participation and law students’ learning, engagement and stress : do demographics matter? / Anna Huggins and Alex Steele
  • Vitality for life and law : fostering student resilience, empowerment and well-being at law school / Judith Marychurch
  • Resilience and wellbeing programs : the practical legal training experience / Judy Bourke and Maxine Evers
  • Resilient lawyers : maximising well-being in legal education and practice / Colin James
  • Using peer assisted learning to develop resilient and resourceful learners / Penelope Watson
  • On being, not just thinking like, a lawyer : connections between uncertainty, ignorance and wellbeing / Tony Foley and Stephen Tang
  • Balance and context – law student well-being and lessons from positive psychology / James Duffy
  • Connecting law students to health and wellbeing / Molly Townes-O’Brien
  • Contemplative practice in the law school : breaking barriers to learning and resilience / Prue Vines and Patricia Morgan
  • Harnessing the law curriculum to promote law student well-being, particularly in the first year of legal education / Rachael Field
  • Beyond the curriculum: the wellbeing of law students within their broader environment / Helen Stallman and James Duffy
  • Dealing with resistance to change by legal academics / Nick James.

Granted, that there are studies such as Christine Parker’s on well-being as a form of moral panic that caution us to question some of the poor quality of the data that’s been produced by some other, particularly earlier, studies.[2]  Nevertheless, as I point out in the three arguments I wrote in a wrap-up posting on the Wellness Forum last year, there are sufficiently sophisticated and well-designed studies to show that there are problems with well-being in our law schools in Australia.[3]

The best studies globally on well-being in legal education treat it as a socially complex phenomenon, which in the LETR Report we (Webb, Ching, Maharg, Sherr) defined at para 1.18 as follows:

Characteristics of socially complex problems Corresponding features of LSET (eg)
There is no definitive definition of the problem Some agreement over a need for reform, but widespread disagreement over the extent, priorities and nature of the changes required
They tend to be intractable General lack of effect from a number of recent education and training reviews
Specific intractable problems:

  • Achieving consistency of standards
  • Reducing costs of training
  • Managing increasing numbers
The information needed to make sense of the problem is often ill-defined, changing and may be difficult to put into use Currently operating in rapidly changing work and educational environments

Relative lack of robust, especially longitudinal, data

Costs of deriving meaningful information are relatively high

They emerge in fields where there are multiple stakeholders; limited consensus as to who the legitimate stakeholders and/or problem-solvers are, and stakeholders are likely to have different criteria of success Large number of stakeholders, with different understandings of the problem(s), and different levels of engagement with the process

Legitimacy questions exist, eg, over the extent of professional and regulatory interest in the Bachelor of Laws (LLB)

Evidence of different stakeholders having different ‘objectives’ for the review

Every attempt at a solution matters significantly Reform tends to be a ‘one-shot’ operation so relatively high risk

Exacerbated by uncertainties about the new regulatory environment, and the tendency of LSET system to operate as a relatively low trust environment


And we went on to say in the following paragraph that ‘traditional linear resolution’ of such problems was not helpful — instead we needed to:

  • recognise that there are few right/wrong solutions as opposed to better/worse outcomes;
  • build shared understanding of the problem amongst a range of stakeholders;
  • build a shared commitment to action;
  • recognise that ‘one-shot’ reforms will affect the system dynamics, often in unexpected or unintended ways;
  • recognise that capacity for continuing engagement, and institutional (re)design needs to be taken seriously.

— which is exactly what Rachael, James and Colin have achieved in this volume.

The second-most recent volume in the ELE series is another edited collection, Legal Education in the Global Context.  Opportunities and Challengesedited by Christopher Gane and Robin Hui Huang, both of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  The volume addresses the globalisation of legal education, and in the following chapters:

  • Introduction / Christopher Gane and Robin Hui Huang.

Part I Theoretical Framework

  • Getting back to our roots: global law schools in local context / Kate Galloway
  • Global challenges to legal education / John Flood
  • The bifurcation of legal education – national vs transnational / Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz
  • Learning opportunities in multi-national law school classes: potential and pitfalls / Carolyn Evans
  • Doctrine, perspectives, and skills for global practice / Simon Chesterman
  • Cultivating high-quality internationalized legal talents under legal globalisation / Liu Xiaohong.

Part II Shifts in Teaching Philosophies and Methods

  • The values dimension of legal education: educating for justice and service / Paul Redmond
  • Critique, philosophy, and the legally-trained citizen’s role in working towards just institutions / Seow Hon Tan
  • Rethinking teaching, learning and assessment in the twenty-first century law curriculum / Rick Glofcheski
  • The unfulfilled promise of law schools to prepare students for the practice of law: an empirical study demonstrating the effectiveness of general law school curriculum in preparing lawyers for the practice of law / John Sonsteng with Leigha Lattner, Emily Parks and David Camarotto
  • Integrating the idea of global governance and international collaboration into law school education / Shi Yan’an
  • Navigating e-spaces in legal education and legal practice / Rita Shackel.

Part III International Experiences

  • The case of the common law in European legal education / Avrom Sherr
  • The challenge of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to traditional legal education: the Australian experience / Joellen Riley
  • The structure, purposes and methods of German legal education / Rainer Wernsmann
  • Reforming Taiwan’s legal education in the age of globalisation / Ming-Yan Shieh and Yen-Chia Chen
  • Globalization and legal education in China today / Wang Zhenmin
  • The ideal and path of legal education reform in China, Ji Weidong
  • Legal education in the global context: the case of Hong Kong / Johannes M.M. Chan

The volume focuses largely on common law jurisdictions and those where CL has had some historical influence and some contemporary presence.  The civil law development of legal education is present in the volume, but has less profile, as has the experience of what might be termed the mixed jurisdictions in legal education (Louisiana, South Africa, possibly Japan, certainly Scotland).  What struck me about the volume when I first read it over is the real sense of a global representation in the chapters, which is both wider and deeper than any other volume I’ve seen on legal education, and particularly in the Asian geographical sphere.  In that sense the volume is a leader.  Of course, we can go much further in this regard but — like all the volumes in our series — the book is a pathfinder, and opens up many fascinating insights about the development of legal education in Asia.

It’s also a leader because many of the book’s chapters, as one might expect of a volume of this nature, point to emerging themes that surface as a result of the adjacency of the local and the global in legal education.  How this comes about has been the subject of research for a while now, but the relationship needs much more analysis and clarity.  Most of the book’s authors deal with it in one way or another.  Thus Kate Galloway uses James Cook University Law School in North Queensland, Australia, as a case study to reveal how the School serves ‘the local community, including the local profession, but is also cognisant of its relationship with the wider region, the state and the nation, as well as within the Asia-Pacific region’.[4]  She applies the literature on colonial tropics, noting the need for Europeans perennially to control and exploit this region since at least the so-called Age of Discovery (itself a term replete with European bias), and discusses the ‘”geographical imaginary”‘ of the tropics as an ‘”interpretive frame”‘, applying it to legal education:

As a lens for development of the curriculum we have sought to reconstruct this frame in a positive sense, resulting in a critical approach to the idea of place and the law that operates within that context.

The result, in Kate’s fascinating chapter and in many others, is a reconceptualisation of issues surrounding the trope of global legal education that makes us rethink habitual ways of constructing how we learn and teach the law.  Which, of course, is exactly what Meera, Beth and I see as one function of the series.

We have a number of books on the stocks, but we’re always looking for more.  If you have a legal educational research project, please do get in touch.  If it’s right for the series, we’d like to publish…

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