UTAS Practice-Centric Law Teaching
The Law Faculty is committed to practice-centric teaching and has embedded skills-based, experiential teaching and learning into core units through the degree (i.e. Foundations of Public Law LAW253, Constitutional Law LAW250, Civil Procedure LAW451). Practice-centric approaches to individual assessments are also utilised in other core units and electives. Practice-centric teaching uses skills based assessments such as mock firm work, advocacy, negotiation, letter writing and other legal professional skills as the platform upon which students build both practical and theoretical knowledge of the law. The embedding of practice-centric units into the UTAS LLB are part of the Law School's commitment to legal education reforms which recognise the need to embed skills teaching throughout your education pathway, so that you're better prepared for professional life upon graduation.
More information about these legal education reforms and the standards that the Law School aspires to in its curriculum reforms can be found at the Council of Australian Law Deans website (PDF 64KB).
How will I study, learn and be assessed in practice-centric units?
Different practice-centric units in your degree will utilise different skills based teaching and assessment. However all are modular (case-based), placing real or hypothetical cases at the centre of teaching and learning. Your assessments will be in a form reflective of the work you will undertake in legal and professional life, and may include:
- Professional legal communications, advice and letter writing;
- Practice based legal research;
- Written and oral advocacy (in the Law school's embedded moot court)
- Negotiation, arbitration and dispute resolution; and
- Collaborative firm (group) work.
In other words you will be learning how to be a real lawyer, by engaging in real legal activities as you study the core subjects of your degree. Teaching research indicates that this is one of the best ways to prepare and equip you for legal practice while providing you with grounding in the relevant topic of law you are studying. It is also an exciting and engaging way to study that provides you with an active understanding of what it is like to work in the profession you have chosen.
Read further details of a practice-centric model (LAW250).
Where can I find guidance on practice-centric learning?
As each practice-centric unit focuses on different skills and knowledge you will generally find instructions relevant to that unit on the unit's MyLo page and in the Unit Outline. However, some general guides relevant to all practice units can be found below:
- Firm work
- Formulating written arguments
- Writing and formatting written submissions
- Communicating professionally
- The role of the solicitor
Why practice-centric learning?
Practice centric-learning is exciting and engaging. You will be provided opportunities to shadow real cases that are ongoing in the courts, appear in court yourself, negotiate on behalf of your client, interact with other student lawyers, and be trained by legal professional academics. Beyond that you will be undertaking a form of learning which is recommended by a range of academic, governmental and professional bodies.
There is a general consensus amongst peak bodies that theory-centric (lecture/tutorial/essay/exam) teaching does not, of itself, adequately equip law students with the necessary skills, 'professional identity', or critical engagement with theory and practice necessary to prepare them for professional life. Those standards commit law schools to, inter alia, foster: "active participation" in legal problem solving [CALD 2.2]; contextual application of legal skills to practical legal situations (including ethical conduct and professional responsibility) [CALD 2.3.2]; instruction and practice in oral and written advocacy [CALD 2.3.3]; and direct engagement with the legal profession [CALD 9.2].
The UTAS practice-centric model is a direct response to these teaching standards. It was designed over a five year process with support from the Faculty of Law, Tasmanian Institute of Learning & Teaching and Law Foundation of Tasmania. A range of lawyers, barristers and judges have contributed to the process.
In 2013 — 2014 the pilot program to establish this model was completed and a research study conducted to determine whether this form of teaching increased or decreased practical skills and theoretical knowledge. The study reported that students who undertook practice-centric units achieved at the same level or better across all measures. Read the summarised report.
Feedback from graduates has also indicated that they find the process highly valuable and relevant to their professional careers.
 Legal skills include 'critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills, lifelong learning, independence, ethics, professionalism and leadership" Davis et al Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Learning and Teaching in the Discipline of Law: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence in a Changed and Changing Environment Australian Learning & Teaching Council, Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD), Report Finalisation: 2009, 54.
 These included reflection, group and teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, lifelong learning, independence, ethics and professionalism and leadership. CALD Report, note 2.