A History of Australian Legal Education examines the history and development of legal education in Australia by tracing the establishment of university law schools and other forms of legal education in the States and Territories from the time of European settlement in 1788 to the present day. While early Australian legal education was founded on historic practices adopted in England and Wales over many centuries, the circumstances of the Australian colonies, and later States, have led to a unique historical trajectory.
The book considers the critical role played by legal education in shaping the culture of law and thus determining how well the legal system operates in practice. In addition, it examines a major challenge for legal educators, namely, the tension between ‘training’ and ‘educating’, which has given rise to a plethora of inquiries and reports in Australia. In the final analysis, it argues that legal education can satisfactorily meet the twin objectives of training individuals as legal practitioners and providing a liberal education that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and transferable skills.
Foreword by Hon Chief Justice Kiefel AC
About the Author
2. Literature Review
3. Early Development – 1788 to 1930
4. The Waiting Years – 1930 to 1960
5. Initial Years of Expansion: Second Wave Law Schools – 1960 to 1980
6. An Avalanche of Law Schools: Third Wave Law Schools – 1989 to 2015
7. External Factors Affecting Australian Legal Education
8. Legal Education Reforms: Concerns, Innovation and Transformation
9. The Four Pillars of Australian Legal Education (and Other Reports)
Appendix – Empirical Study: List of Participants
It’s an axiom of mine that the best way to understand something is to know its history. Nothing appears from nowhere, and this book, by describing and analysing the history of legal education in Australia during three stages from the establishment of the NSW colony, explains the current state of legal education in Australia.
During the first stage, up to 1960, law schools were based in universities located in the capital cities of each state. Early legal education modelled that of England and Wales and focussed on preparing students for legal practice. Studies in non-legal subjects from the liberal education curricula, such as Latin, classics, mathematics and science, were required prerequisites to legal studies in some universities.
The establishment in 1960 of the ANU Law School heralded the “second wave” of law schools. During this expansion the question began to be raised whether legal education was solely for the preparation of students for the legal profession.
The third wave, or avalanche as the author calls it, commenced in 1989 and was largely triggered by the “Dawkins Revolution”. John Dawkins, education minister from 1987-91 in the Hawke Labor government, abolished the binary system of universities and colleges of advanced education (CAEs) and encouraged the establishment of new universities. From 19 universities and 69 CAEs in the binary system prior to these reforms, by 1994 there were 36 universities. There are currently 43 universities in Australia with nearly all including a law school. This led, amongst other things, to a higher number of legal graduates than were able to be employed in the legal profession and to the unfair claim by some that a law degree was the new arts degree.
The author’s themes, analysed across these stages, are: purpose
of legal education; teaching methods; teaching and research; legal education personnel; teaching resources; practical legal training; continuous legal education; and institutionalisation.
Anyone looking for an understanding of, and handbook on, legal education in Australia will be well rewarded with this valuable resource.
Peter Cain, Ethos, ACT Law Society, December 2017
The story of the development of Australian legal education over more than 150 years since the mid-19th century is incredibly complex. In part, this is a consequence of Australian federalism: for every trend in one jurisdiction, variations emerge in another – and in due course, especially in recent times, all are overlaid by attempts, often more heroic than successful, to extract or impose national approaches or national standards. In part, the complexity is a consequence of the array of stakeholders and, consequently, of the multiplicity of bodies vying for influence over the development of legal education. And in part it is a consequence of the wide range of themes and issues that might be thought to fall within the ambit of, or touch and concern, legal education: its goals and purposes, its relationship to legal practice, its economic and social impact, its subject matter or curriculum, how it is taught and by whom, how it is funded, who controls it, and much more. When you add these elements together, and put them in the context of the dramatic growth and transformation of legal education and legal practice from the latter part of the 20th century, it is a volatile mix.
Having been in the thick of many of these developments, David Barker, a former law dean and irrepressible long-time mover and shaker in the field, is well-placed to undertake the challenging task of recording their history. His study had its origins in a later-in-life PhD thesis, which provided a good opportunity for him to immerse himself in the detail, yet without losing focus on a range of broad themes, and also to draw upon his own mature reflection and long experience, including in the UK. Consequently, he navigates the complexity of the situation very well. Indeed, Professor Barker has done us a great service in putting together an account of the developments in legal education across the whole of Australia, including overviews of the history of every one of our breathtaking multitude of law schools. It is path breaking work, not previously attempted, and he should be congratulated for converting previously fragmentary information into a coherent whole. Read full review…
Michael Coper, Australian Law Journal, Nov 2017, 91
A History of Australian Legal Education examines the development of legal education in Australia, from the creation of the first law schools in the 19th century to the 38 Australian law schools in existence today. Contextualised by the author with a quote from Merryman that the “examination of legal education in a society provides a window on its legal system”, the purpose of the book is to provide the reader with an understanding of how the evolution of legal education in Australia has influenced Australia’s legal system and profession. Critical to this inquiry is the author’s analysis of the debate surrounding the purpose of legal education: is it a means to train individuals for entry into the profession, or is it an academic discipline in itself? Ultimately the author argues that the development of legal education in Australia is such that both purposes can be achieved.
The book is structured to allow readers to first gain an appreciation of legal education as a phenomenon to be reviewed and examined. … This text is an insightful resource for those who have completed their legal education in Australia, as it not only provides an understanding of the rationales underpinning the teaching of the law, but also of the way that legal education can influence and affect Australia’s broader legal profession.
Hannah McAlister, Qld Lawyer, 2017
The question for legal education, as David Barker observes in this elegant history, is whether it “can satisfactorily meet the twin objectives of training individuals as legal practitioners and providing a liberal education that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and transferable skills”. …
The author covers significant areas beyond the academy, such as alternative entry points for students and access to free legal information. However, it is the marriage of legal training and the academy – a relatively recent affair in the common law – that is the great value of the author’s work. Read full review…
David Ash, Francis Forbes Society Newsletter, 35, Spring 2017
The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel’s foreword to A History of Australian Legal Education captures the essence of David Barker’s project – to elevate the narrative of the development, and importance, of legal education in Australia to parallel those of England and Wales. The book achieves its purpose through a comprehensive examination of the establishment of university law schools and their interaction with the profession, the admitting authorities and the judiciary. Barker describes the growth of law schools as “waves”. His book chronicles the distinctive movements from the traditional law schools of Melbourne and Sydney in the 1850s, to the ‘second wave’ institutions of post-World War II, through to the ‘third wave’ law schools that have emerged since 1989. Of particular interest is the description of the diversity of law deans and their contributions to the culture of the law schools they led, often for lengthy periods of service. Underpinning this history is the conflict between the study of law as a scholarly exercise of the mind and training for entry to the profession. Barker concludes that a legal education, built on a rich history of academic leadership, student engagement and stakeholder influence, can achieve a liberal education that combines the discipline of law with transferable skills.
David Barker is an Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Law and was Dean of the faculty from 1997 to 2004.
Maxine Evers, U Magazine, UTS News Room, November 2017
This book is a comprehensive analysis of the historical development of the education and training of law students in Australia. As the author states in chapter 2 “legal education is the most vital component for training future legal practitioners and those who wish to learn about the legal system without necessarily becoming lawyers”. The book considers the role played by legal education in shaping the culture of law. In its introduction the author states “[t]hrough legal education the legal culture is transferred from generation to generation”. But the ambiguity in the core purpose of legal education is the “first and central” theme to the book. Is it just to train future legal practitioners or is legal education an intellectual liberal philosophy? That tension has given rise to a plethora of inquiries and reports in Australia (see chapter 9). In the final analysis the author examines whether these two often conflicting ideals can be reconciled?
Professor Barker is Emeritus Professor and a former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney. The UTS faculty of law was established in January 1975 making it part of the “second wave” of legal institutions. Professor Barker’s book traces the history of legal education in Australia from the inception of the first law schools post federation to the “avalanche” of law schools since 1989 (there is only one public university in Australia which does not now support a law school). The books traces the shift from legal education that was marked by study for a university degree together with either undertaking articles as a solicitor or satisfaction of the requirements of the various bar association and admission boards to the advent of a legal education that is for students who do not ever intend to become legal practitioners. The book also traces the role played by the profession in legal education and examines some of the difficulties experienced by modern law schools in maintaining those vital links to the profession. Although it would be difficult to write such a book without descending at times into lists of names and dates the book avoids becoming mired in those lists. In fact, the book is very readable. It will be of interest to all legal educators and many practitioners
Queensland Law Reporter – 4 August 2017 –  30 QLR