: The Internationalisation of Legal Education: The Future Practice of Law

The Internationalisation of Legal Education: The Future Practice of Law

Kristoffer Greaves

van-Caenegem-Internationalisation-of-legal-education-smWilliam van Caenegem and Mary Hiscock (eds); Edward Elgar, 2014; 316pp; £76.50 (hardback)

Caenegem and Hiscock’s The Internationalisation of Legal Education: The Future Practice of Law (Edward Elgar, 2014) follows their earlier book, The Internationalisation of Law: Legislating, Decision Making, Practice and Education (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010). The latest book is substantially based on contributions made at a symposium that focused on internationalisation of legal education held at Bond University in 2012. In their preface, the editors provide a cogent overarching theme for the work:

Whereas the emphasis and content of global law will continue to vary, the trend is clearly toward greater recognition of the necessity and value of an international perspective, both technical and cultural, in the law graduate of the future.

In 16 chapters divided into five parts, the book provides a useful mix of intellectual and practical approaches to the topic. The parts are arranged in a narrative arc from the philosophical to the practical: ‘Dealing with the Different National Philosophies of Legal Education’, ‘Ignoring the Civil Law and Common Law Divide: A Brave New World’, ‘Evolving Initiatives in Legal Education for Global Practice’, ‘International Practice: Attorney’s Insights’, and ‘Litigation and Arbitration: International Advocacy Across Borders’.

Space does not permit review of all the chapters here. I have selected two chapters for attention; Bobette Wolski’s, ‘Continuing the internationalisation debate: Philosophies

of legal education, issues in curriculum design and lessons from skill integration’ (Chapter 4), and Gillian Triggs’ ‘The internationalisation of legal education: An opportunity for human rights?’ (Chapter 11).

Wolski acknowledges commentary that calls for changes to law school curricula to accommodate internationalisation and the needs of globalised legal practice, but observes not all law schools and teachers are ‘on board’ in Australia, where the ‘dominant philosophy of legal education’ involves an ‘obsession’ with core subjects ‘heavily weighted towards domestic law’. She discusses threshold issues such as the ‘meaning and impact of a philosophy of legal education’, the ‘goals’ of legal education, and ‘lessons learned’ from previous attempts at curriculum renewal. Wolski then identifies ‘challenges involved in internationalisation of the curriculum’, which include:

  • Time constraints – perception that the curriculum is overcrowded;

  • Policy constraints – requirement to retain the Priestley 11;

  • Turf wars – vested interests in protecting existing curricula;

  • Lack of expertise;

  • Resource constraints;

  • Institutional constraints – the difficulty of achieving ‘systematic curriculum structure’; and

  • Student demand for electives.

Wolski concludes the ‘scorecard’ for internationalisation of law school curriculum ‘is not good’, due to these continuing constraints. She observes that it is ‘unlikely’ the Priestley 11 requirement will change ‘any time soon’. I observe that the Australian Law Admissions Consultative Committee has called for submissions for its review of the academic requirements for admission to the legal profession, which includes the question:

Is any other area of knowledge, not presently included in the Academic Requirements, now of such basic potential importance to the great majority of practitioners today, that no law graduate should be permitted to practise without it?

It is possible that the review will result in changes to the long-standing Priestley 11 requirements. Wolski recommends that, in the meantime, law school course coordinators can improve the curriculum by incorporating ‘some international aspect’ throughout; however, ‘in the long term, integration must take place intentionally and systematically’.

In ‘The internationalisation of legal education: An opportunity for human rights?’ Triggs discusses ‘implications of the internationalisation of the law on legal education, and on the implementation of human rights law in Australia’. Triggs begins by summarising the Australian courts’ past treatment of international law as an influential source of law while not ‘automatically incorporated into domestic law’. That influence has grown through ‘over 1000 treaties to which Australia has become a party’, including multilateral instruments that affect international trade, investment and business, and the emergence of global firms operating in a ‘borderless legal environment’, including the export of Australian legal services. Despite this, Triggs observes Australia is behind in internationalising legal education, and in implementing international law into domestic law. As to the former, like Wolski, Triggs observes the internationalisation of legal education is constrained by the dominance of the Priestley 11 requirements. As to the latter, Triggs describes a ‘potentially damaging disconnect’ due to Australian legislatures’ failure to integrate international laws domestically, particularly in respect of human rights.

Triggs provides an interesting summary of the international disputes arising from the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth) to illustrate the practical effects of internationalisation of law in practice. She describes how the Australian government was obliged to defend the Act in dispute resolution proceedings under international instruments. Triggs uses these examples to show Australian legal education should contemplate the skills and knowledge today’s lawyers need in an internationalised legal profession.

Triggs argues there is ‘little articulation’ of the necessary ‘specific knowledge and skills’, and while many law schools ‘have taken up the challenge’ their approaches are variable and commitment is inconsistent. She supports an ‘integrated model’ to incorporate internationalisation in legal education, in which the ‘views and needs of employers’ are critical (although some employers ‘saw no particular need’ for international law to be included in the curriculum). Triggs concludes that an integrated model of internationalisation in legal education is also important for a ‘more integrated approach to human rights law’ in Australia.

These two chapters are not necessarily representative of the whole book, however they indicate how The Internationalisation of Legal Education: The Future Practice of Law provides substantial information around the topic, with an interesting and diverse range of material for reflection, discussion, and planning in legal education. The book is well planned and easy to ready. It is organised so that any one chapter can be read in any order relevant to the reader.

KRISTOFFER GREAVES is a lawyer and PhD candidate at Deakin University. His research is focused on lawyers who teach practical legal skills.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 67
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