You will recall that in November, Executive Director Luke Rheinberger and I met with the Dean of the UTAS Law School, Professor Michael Stuckey, to express the Society’s concerns regarding proposed changes to the mode of delivery of the LLB at the Law School. The Society has continued to engage with the University since that time in relation to this issue and concerns regarding ongoing support for the Centre for Legal Studies and the Tasmania Law Reform Institute.
Due to ongoing concerns regarding these issues I helped arrange for a delegation of senior members of the Judiciary and the Profession to meet with the Vice-Chancellor and other senior University representatives. On 8 February the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Alan Blow AO, former Governor Professor Kate Warner AC FAAL, Former Commonwealth DPP and former Chancellor of the University, Damian Bugg AM QC, DPP Daryl Coates SC, President of TasCAT Malcolm Schyvens, President of the Tasmanian Bar, Phillip Zeeman and I attended the meeting with the Vice Chancellor Professor Rufus Black, Professor Jane Long, Provost, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kate Darian-Smith and Dean of the Law School, Professor Michael Stuckey at the University’s Sandy Bay Campus.
During the meeting, we sought clarification on the basis for the need to change the mode of delivery of the LLB in light of the Law School’s excellent standing and ranking nationally and whether the changes were impacting on the reportedly high academic staff turnover within the Law School.
From the profession’s point of view, we highlighted the importance of ensuring that core legal units continue to be taught by people who are expert in the subject areas they are teaching – something the Law School is known for.
Prior to the meeting it came to our attention that the University of Tasmania was planning to engage a mainland provider to deliver post-graduate practical legal training in Tasmania in the second half of 2022. Concerns regarding this decision and the longer term future of the Centre for Legal Studies were also raised during the meeting.
The practical legal education and training provided by the Centre for Legal Studies is regarded by many as the best on offer in Australia. The course is delivered in cooperation with the Supreme and Magistrates Courts and many members of the profession volunteer their time to aid in its delivery. What sets the Legal Practice Course apart from many on offer interstate is its hands on, face to face learning environment and the opportunity to interact with experienced local judges, magistrates and lawyers; all while learning local practice and procedure, which equips students well for their early career in practice in Tasmania. All of this was explained to the University representatives and given particular emphasis, especially by the Chief Justice.
It is my sincere hope that the University takes on board the matters and concerns raised during the meeting and that the excellent tertiary and post-graduate legal education offered in the State continues.
The Executive Director and I also recently met with the Director of Tasmania Legal Aid, Vincenzo Caltabiano regarding concerns that have been raised by members about ongoing delays in the processing of applications for legal aid. These meetings have been very constructive. Tasmania Legal Aid has implemented and is planning to implement a number of initiatives which I expect will improve application processing times significantly in coming months.
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