Discussion papers prepared by LACC

Rethinking academic requirements for admission

In 2010, the Commonwealth Government commissioned the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to manage a project to develop teaching and learning outcomes for graduates in several disciplines, including law. It seemed possible that these "outcome measures" might become significant tools in the tertiary accreditation processes adopted by the Commonwealth.

This prompted LACC to prepare a Discussion Paper which set out the background to the development of the existing academic requirements for admission, and explained the emergence of "outcome measures" as criteria for reviewing and accrediting professional courses in law and other disciplines in other countries. Finally the paper noted various criticisms made of the present academic requirements and reached 16 conclusions that may be relevant when deciding if, and how, those requirements should be reviewed.

Reconciling academic requirements and threshold learning outcomes

Further consideration of the Discussion Paper Rethinking Academic Requirements for Admission led to some suggestions about ways in which the existing Academic Requirements for Admission might eventually be integrated with any threshold learning outcomes developed for degrees in law. Ultimately, the suggestions were not adopted by all Admitting Authorities.

At its meeting in June 2011, LACC accordingly adopted a further Discussion Paper, explaining why the earlier suggestions should not be adopted and concluded that there were no present grounds either for adopting cosmetic improvements to the existing formulations of the academic requirements, or for undertaking a comprehensive review of the substance of those requirements.

The Discussion Paper further draws attention to the policy adopted by the Victorian Council of Legal Education to undertake reviews of law schools for admission purposes, in conjunction with appropriately constituted and independent five-yearly reviews undertaken by Universities of their law schools; and to require those reviews to consider, not only the way in which each of the 11 academic requirements is being taught, but also how the various matters set out in the LACC Statement on Statutory Interpretation are being taught in the context of the 11 academic requirements.

Approaches to interpretation

In 2007, the Victorian Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal, with the support of the Chief Justices of Australia and New South Wales, wrote to propose that LACC "review the present academic requirements in the light of the prevailing practices in Australian law schools, in order to ensure that statutory interpretation is given the prominence and priority which its daily importance to modern legal practice warrants."

This led to the convening of a Working Group to produce a Discussion Paper, setting out some preliminary ideas about the knowledge and competence relevant to statutory interpretation which might reasonably be expected of a graduate in law, and seeking views on five questions relating to possible future arrangements for ensuring that graduates attain the requisite knowledge and competence.

Numerous comments were received from law schools and others, as a result of which the Working Group produced a Statement on Statutory Interpretation which was subsequently endorsed by LACC (see above).

Discussion Paper on special circumstance admission

As a general rule, an overseas applicant for admission must have substantially equivalent qualifications to those required of a locally-trained applicant. This principle makes it difficult for, say, an overseas specialist practitioner to appear in a matter in Australia without first acquiring the additional academic and practical legal training required by the Uniform Principles for Assessing Overseas Qualifications, set out above.

With the assistance of the Law Council of Australia, LACC prepared a Discussion Paper examining ways in which admission for limited purposes and for limited periods might be managed. In the light of comments received, the proposal relating to practising in special circumstances, set out above, was prepared and endorsed by all Admitting Authorities, for submission to the COAG Taskforce on National Legal Profession Reform.