Thinking in legal educ



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Report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia (Australian Government Publishing Service, 1964) 70.

25 See description of legal education in, for example, Sally Kift, ‘My Law School

Then and Now’ (2006) 9 Newcastle Law Review 1, 3−5.

26 See James, above n 17, 968−9.

27 Ibid 969.

28 For a summary of these debates, see volume 5 of the Australian Journal of Law and Society (1988−89) which is devoted to the question of critical legal education, and includes key documents from debates among law school staff at Macquarie. See also James, above n 17.
Allegations were made that students educated in this environment would be unemployable as lawyers because of the lack of focus on substantive doctrine and professional skills.29

It is fair to say that even today the existence of these more radical political perspectives within the law degree is divisive. The disputes on the 1970s and 1980s have left scars on many legal educators, making terms such as ‘Critical Legal Studies’ (CLS) heavy with baggage. In our discussions with colleagues in law schools across Australia, our group has found that the legacy of these disputes has even coloured the term ‘critical thinking’. For this reason, our definition of critical thinking (set out in Part I) focuses on methods that enable students to identify and question their assumptions. While this process might occur with reference to ideas developed in CLS and subsequent critical legal theories, it might occur in a legal education that is very differently focused. We have discovered that clarifying the distinction between critical thinking and critical legal theories has been important for bringing people into the conversation.

In the early 1990s the possibility of challenge to the dominant template again emerged, and Thorntons experience of its demise shaped much of her current critique of law schools. In 1992, La Trobe University moved from offering legal studies to its BA students through its Department of Legal Studies, to offering an accredited professional LLB degree. During its time offering legal studies in the BA, the university developed a reputation for focusing on ‘law as a social phenomenon’ rather than ‘law for practice’.30 As a newly appointed chair at La Trobe, Thornton describes the anticipation of developing an ‘innovative LLB’ in this environment,31 and its initial sale to the market as ‘an interdisciplinary study of the law in its social context, combining and integrating law with the perspectives and intellectual skills of the social sciences.’32 However, the program that was adopted for the new school was taken from existing law school curricula, at least partly to reassure the market of the quality of the new graduates.33 The Department of Legal Studies became the School of Law and Legal Studies in a professionally dominated faculty, and eventually La Trobe Law.34 In 1999, a review of the School recommended that it turn further towards the commercial and practice-focused curriculum expected by the market. Many remaining socio-legal scholars (the large majority of whom were

29 Andrew Lang, Will Macquarie Graduates Remain Employable?’ [1989]
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