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The Australian Academy of Law and The Australian Law Journal presents

The Future of Australian Legal Education Conference 2017

 Legal Conference  

                                                                 The opening plenary session held in the Federal Court of                 Questions from the audience during the opening plenary session

                                                                                   Australia’s Ceremonial Court Room

The first conference on the future of Australian legal education in many years was held over the weekend of 11-13 August 2017. It marked the 10th anniversary of the Australian Academy of Law (AAL), the 90th anniversary of the Australian Law Journal (ALJ), and the 30th anniversary of the Pearce Report on Australian Law Schools. In the words of the President of the Academy, Dr Kevin Lindgren, the conference was a huge success, with over 160 practitioners, academics, law librarians, judges and students attending four plenary sessions and eight concurrent sessions.

Professor Martha C. Nussbaum

The keynote speaker was Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed to the Law School and Philosophy Department, University of Chicago.  She spoke of the need for law students to have a broad based education, in areas ranging through political science, economics, sociology, and political philosophy in order to be lawyers who could think critically about society and guide it productively, particularly in an era of threatening populism.

The conference provided a forum for an informed and often vigorous debate on the future of legal study and practice in Australia. Topics included the impact of digital technology on teaching, learning and legal practice, the elements of a ‘good’ lawyer, what are the purposes and goals of legal education, pedagogy and its outcomes,                  Professor Martha C. Nussbaum providing her keynote address
access to, and indigenous engagement in, legal education; experiential learning; and the interaction of law across disciplines and international borders.

Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC  Professor Dennis Pearce AO FAAL   

                President of the Australian Academy of Law,                                                         Participants during a break                                                           Emeritus Dennis Pearce AO addressing

     the Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC, addressing the audience                                                                                                                                                                        conference participants

Speakers eminent in the law and legal education included Emeritus Professors Dennis Pearce AO, Sandford Clark AM, David Barker AM, John Farrar, and Rosalind Croucher AM, the new Chair of the Australian Human Rights Commission; the Hon Michael Black AC QC; the Hon Nicholas Hasluck AM QC; Justin Gleeson SC and Alan Cameron AO.

The Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC spoke insightfully, and entertainingly, at the conference dinner held at NSW Parliament House, including accounts of her early student days at the University of Queensland.   

A closing session on the future of legal education was chaired by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG with speakers including Justice Alan Robertson, Fiona McLeod SC, Professor William MacNeil, Chair, Council of Australian Law Deans, Dan Trevanion, the President of the Australian Law Students Association and Professor Nussbaum.

                                         Hon Justice Virginia Bell                                                                                             


                                                        The Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC speaking at the Conference            Top row: the Hon Kevin Lindren AM QC, Wendy Lindgren, Bran

                                                                                    Gala Dinner in NSW Parliament House                              Black, Stuart Clark AM, Narelle Clark; Bottom row: the Hon Chief

                                                                                                                                                                                       Justice Diana Bryant AO, the Hon Justice Francois Kunc, the Hon

                                                                                                                                                                                       Justice  Virginia Bell AC, Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, the Hon

                                                                                                                                                                                      Michael Kirby AC CMG


The conference was sponsored by the AAL and by the ALJ publisher Thomson Reuters, and supported by the Law Council of Australia.

A detailed report on the issues raised at the conference is being prepared for publication in the ALJ, under the editorship of Justice Francois Kunc.

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