Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Project title

Enhancing the practical ‘lawyering’ skills in the Juris Doctor

Project leaders

Linda Kam

Project team

  • Mary Toohey
  • Kathy Douglas
  • Alperhan Babacan
  • Paul Ryan

Project summary

This project sought to embed into the Juris Doctor program a distinct work-relevant and industry-partnered strategy to develop the professional skills capabilities in the JD so that our graduates will be work- ready with improved employment opportunities. It would introduce an innovative approach to the teaching and learning outcomes for the students and will place RMIT at the forefront of the JD programs in Australia.

The project was to develop a realistic learning environment which would overlay the whole program and assessment was to be based on the completion of a series of hands-on ‘tasks’ as would be carried out by trainee lawyers/legal assistants in legal firms.

To that end, on the 11th Saturday of 2nd Semester 2011, ie the 8th October 2011, students were required to role-play as trainee lawyers of two mock legal firms. They were assigned to six practitioners (three external practitioners and three practitioner-lecturers from RMIT) for various practical tasks as one would find in law firms (meeting partners to discuss files and taking instructions, advising clients for examples) and concluding with written tasks flowing from the practical tasks at the end of each one-hour session per course. The marks allocated by the practitioners was a maximum 10% of the overall marks for the course for the practical tasks and a maximum 10% allocated by the course lecturers to whom the written tasks were submitted to not later than one week after the practical sessions.

I am pleased to report that what was achieved primarily was that most of the students experienced some important basic aspects of the legal practice environment, acquired further knowledge and skills required in legal practice and critically, acquired an appreciation of the relevance and application of other attributes expected in the legal profession such as initiative, dedication and ethical considerations.

Further, by adopting activities and assessment which reflected a vocational context whilst strengthening skills and capabilities in this area, the students also importantly, received feedback from industry.

On a secondary level, this project has significantly complied with the new AQF direction that a masters of course work for professional practice must contain a ‘significant’ component of structured work-intergrated or practice-related learning.’ By implementing the new student learning experience and assessment tool, the University has demonstrated its ability to respond quickly and successfully embraced the new AQF requirements.

Outcomes

  • Improving student learning and experience;
  • Be innovative;
  • Be work-related and industry- partnered
  • That there be a return on investment;
  • The project to be evaluated;
  • Sharing and dissemination of knowledge and best practice.

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