Bond University


Legal research is a fundamental “lawyering” skill, and as such its importance in legal education has had more recognition than other discipline-specific attributes. However, in 1988, when an initial review of research skills training in Australasian law schools was completed, the predominant philosophy appeared to be that the skill would be developed via a process of “osmosis”. Since then, a transformation of sorts has occurred. Legal research training has become an integral part of the curriculum of most law courses offered within the Australian region. At the same time, skills generally have gained increasing importance in the tertiary sector and especially in the law school curriculum. Within this context, some law schools have instigated reviews of their overall skills training, and this has had a flow-on effect on legal research training. This current Australian legal tertiary framework of enhanced importance for skills training and an increased use of technology for teaching, forms the backdrop for the 2002 survey. This paper firstly reviews the developments taking place within higher education as reflected in the various government reports. It then outlines the relevant literature on literacy competency within information sciences. Also pertinent is the law schools’ response to doctrinal research skills training. Previous surveys of legal research teaching in Australia are summarised. The paper then examines the outcomes of the 2002 survey and makes some conclusions and recommendations based on the analysis of results taking into account the challenges identified for the tertiary education sector in Australia.