Bond University is set to establish a new Centre for Professional Legal Education, the largest of its kind in Australia.
The new Centre will conduct coordinated research into professionally focused and skills-based legal education and embed the results of that research into the design and delivery of best-practice legal education and legal training courses.
It was announced this week as part of Bond University Research Week, and will open from next year with a team of 25 academics and professional associates working from Bond's renowned Faculty of Law.
The Centre for Professional Legal Education will become the third University Research Centre based at Bond University, complementing two health and medical focused facilities - the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice and the Centre for Human Health and Performance. .
The new Centre is the initiative of Bond University Executive Dean of Law, Professor Nick James, and will have two broad functions – conducting research and scholarship, and delivering legal training programs.
Professor James said legal education in Australia and elsewhere had undergone significant changes over the past two decades, moving from a doctrinally-focused approach to a more professionally-focused and skills-based model in line with student expectations and employer demands.
"Bond has already established a reputation of providing the best legal education in Australia and we want to build on that by becoming the home of legal education research and scholarship," he said.
"When I completed my own law degree, legal education was very much about the science of law, with the focus upon learning the law itself in quite a dry way without too much emphasis on professional application.
"Since around the time Bond was established, there has been a shift towards teaching students to become lawyers by ensuring they learn practical legal skills and not just legal doctrine.
"The establishment of this Centre will ensure we stay at the forefront of professional legal education in Australia, by focusing on ways to ensure the teaching of law is professionally-focussed, skills-based, authentic, global and consistent with the principles of student learning.
"At the same time, we need to ensure that law schools continue to focus on other important aspects of their role in society, including equitable access to legal services, law reform and social justice."
The work undertaken by the Centre will include helping law schools to find the right balance between serving the profession, serving the law and serving the community."
Professor James said the scope of the research conducted within the Centre would include the internationalisation of legal education, preparation of law students for professional practice, clinical legal education, teaching of legal ethics and judicial legal education.
The Centre will conduct research projects produce academic publications, spearhead research collaborations, host an annual conference, supervise Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) students, and host and publish legal education journals including the Legal Education Review, now in its 25th year, and the new Australian Journal of Clinical Education, which will launch next year.
Legal training programs will be offered under two broad categories: Professional Legal Training (PLT), including the existing and well-regarded Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, and Advanced Legal Training (ALT), which will deliver advanced programs for legal and non-legal professionals.
Professor James said he expected the Centre to expand quickly, with the ultimate aim of setting up an international network of legal education centres.
"There is a pressing need for scholarly and critical reflection around who and what law schools teach, the ways in which law school teach and assess students and the wider role and responsibilities of law schools," he said.
"This new Centre will bring together academics, practitioners and administrators and facilitate an ongoing disciplinary conversation about the nature and purpose of professional legal education."
Bond University's Faculty of Law employs more than 50 academics and has a student base of more than 850.
The fourth annual Bond University Research Week runs until November 20 and will showcase the diverse research underway across the Law, Business, Health and Medicine, and Society and Design faculties.
Research Week includes a series of public lectures along with industry events, including doctoral student presentations, and a 'Three Minute Research' competition for academics, which will provide a quick snapshot of the variety of studies underway.
For more information on Bond University's Research Week or to register your attendance, visit bond.edu.au/research-week