Bond University

Article Title

Cultural Cringe or Lessons for Australian Legal Education?


John Goldring


[Extract] Australia is now developing its own tradition of legal education, as well as its own variant of the common law. Legal education in Australia originated in the demand by the practising legal professions in the various colonies for academic credentials which would increase their status, rather than in more scholarly aspirations. For this reason it has long been different from English legal education, though both focussed on a body of knowledge centred around rules, practices and institutions which had clearly English origins and retained them until quite recently Should Australians (and specifically, Australian law teachers) be interested in two books which examine and provide examples of legal scholarship in England? Perhaps the most striking thing about the two books on English Law Schools is that in both I found only three mentions of teaching method, as distinct from matters of curriculum or scholarship. The clearest reference is in Michael Chesterman’s essay “Legal Explorations in Different Lands”. Chesterman was until recently Dean of Law at the University of NSW, the first Australian law school to question traditional curriculum or teaching methods. He compares the challenge posed respectively by Warwick and UNSW to established traditions; that of Warwick lay in the content of its curriculum, that of UNSW in its methods of teaching. Twining, in his Hamlyn Lectures, refers to instruction in skills (in which he has been a pioneer) as part of an argument that the English Law School curriculum might become more comprehensive, and Wilson, in his rather depressing concluding essay, “Enriching the Study of Law”, mentions it in a similar context.