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The Promise of Law Reform

The Promise of Law Reform

By Brian Opeskin and David Weisbrot


The Promise of Law Reform the most comprehensive examination of the institutions and processes of law reform published in the common law world and provides a rich source of information, inspiration and ideas.  It is an edited collection of 30 essays published to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Australian Law Reform Commission.

The authors - law reform commissioners, judges, academics, politicians, government officials, and journalists - reflect the plurality of law reform styles and structures, within Australia and overseas.

They cover the broad themes of the history, purpose and function of law reform; institutional design of law reform agencies; methodology and operations; how successful law reform should be assessed and judged; cooperation and mutual assistance; other law reform initiatives; and law reform in action.


A. History, Purpose and Function

A History of Law Reform in Australia
Michael Tilbury
The Future for Institutional Law Reform
David Weisbrot
A Vision of Tidiness: Codes, Consolidations and Statute Law Revision
Edward Caldwell

B. Institutional Design

Institutional Architecture
Kate Warner
Independence and Accountability of Law Reform Agencies
Peter Hennessy
Continuity, Discontinuity, Stasis and Innovation
Roderick Macdonald
Initiation and Selection of Projects
J Bruce Robertson

C. Methods and Operations

Strategic and Project Planning
Anne Rees
Martin Partington
Targeted Consultations
Ian Davis
Law Reform and Community Participation
Roslyn Atkinson
Relations with the Media
David Solomon

D. Outputs and Outcomes

Products of Law Reform Agencies
Lani Blackman
Measuring Success
Brian Opeskin
John Hannaford

E. Co-operation and Mutual Assistance

Leadership and Ideas: Law Reform in a Federation
Nathalie Des Rosiers
Co-operation across Frontiers
Michael Sayers

F. Other Law Reform Initiatives

Professional and Private Bodies
Ralph Simmonds
Law Reform Agencies and Royal Commissions: Toiling in the Same Field?
Ronald Sackville
Law Reform through the Executive
Laurie Glanfield
Law Reform and the Legislature
Marise Payne
Law Reform and the Courts
Sir Anthony Mason

G. Law Reform in Action

The Growth of Civil Justice Reform
Peter Sallmann
Challenges to Criminal Justice Reform
David Brown
Law Reform and Social Justice
Marcia Neave
Science, Medicine and Health and the Work of the Australian Law Reform Commission
Don Chalmers
Law Reform and Legal Education: Uniting Separate Worlds
Michael Coper
The Challenge of Law Reform in Pacific Island States
Guy Powles
The Challenge of Law Reform in Southern Africa
Mwangala Kamuwanga
Are We There Yet?
Michael Kirby



This wide-ranging series of essays [is] a unique collection of works focusing upon high-minded and practical elements of law reform alike. The somewhat selfish conception of law reform from the perspective of a lobby group is in line with one meaning of reform – a change for the better. And so the central question posed in the mind of this reader is change for what end and for whose benefit as a result of law reform? Answers to that question are found in a number of these generally very well written essays …
Ultimately how you assess law reform will be based upon the outcome, the change for the better, that you seek. For an exegesis on ways and means to get there (whatever your own answer to the central question) read this book.

Ethos (Law Society ACT), June 2006

Thirty chapters, each by a different author, describe almost every aspect of institutional law reform, and the chapters are grouped accordingly: history, function, design, methods and outcomes. These are supplemented by a group of chapters on other methods of law reform, and a group of chapters on current issues for law reform institutions around the world.
Overall, the chapters describe rather than analyse. They tell a reader how law reform is done, and they speculate on how it might be done better. For that alone the book is valuable, and unique in its coverage of all the issues in one text. But the book’s celebratory genesis has resulted in limited and ad hoc critical self-reflection, on either the ALRC or the idea of institutional law reform.
… Nor are more fundamental questions about the very idea of law reform directly addressed by the book. …
Although light on analysis, the book is a treasure trove of information about how law reform has been done, is done and could be done by specialist institutions. From research and strategic planning to community participation and media relations, from interagency cooperation and measures of success to legal education and issues in comparable jurisdictions, the book is an essential reference on the operation of institutional law reform.

Alternative Law Journal Vol 32(2) June 2007


Published 28 November 2005
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862875845
Australian RRP $125.00
International Price $115.00
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Law - Legal Profession / Legal Practice
Criminology & Policing - Justice Studies
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