Teaching Law

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

And now for something completely different: Statutory interpretation

And now for something completely different*
I started my LLM thesis when I was still in private practice. My thesis was designed to tackle a very practical black-letter law problem I had encountered in my practice as a property lawyer. In analysing the issues however, I branched out way beyond my comfort zone into some theoretical areas - law and economics, feminist legal theory and critical legal studies. Before developing my thesis proposal I had not even known that such things existed. This was a product of my largely doctrinal undergraduate experience and my immersion in commercial law practice.

During this time however I read Nick James' 'Brief History of Critique in Legal Education' - before I knew that legal education was even a thing. Now that I know a little more about legal education, Nick's paper continues to inform my thinking. It is a useful reminder to me that despite the monolithic appearance of the law and the appearance of solidity of the term 'the profession', that they are subject to change. As Nick's paper makes clear also, Australian legal education has been characterised by shifts between the practical and the academic, culminating in the ascendancy of the professional legal academic.

The degree remains subject to judicial oversight through the Law Admissions Consultative Committee ('LACC'). Its structure, moreover, must conform with the so-called Priestley 11, the 11 core subjects considered to represent the cohesive body of discipline knowledge requisite for legal practice.

Since the Priestleys were mandated in 1992 there have been a number of seismic shifts that have generated debate about their utility and relevance. There are greater numbers of law students not going on to practice; increasing globalisation of legal practice; increasing specialisation of practitioners; and growing emphasis on legal skills and soft skills rather than doctrinal content alone. LACC is presently considering whether to do a small adjustment to the Priestleys, but the question I'm interested in pursuing here is possibility of a Priestley 12 - the inclusion of statutory interpretation.