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Chief Justice opens new law school

Briefs

Cite as: April 2015 89 (4) LIJ, p.16

Keep an open mind, be mindful of your behaviour, use plain English and look after yourselves. That was the advice given by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren to the first cohort of students at Swinburne University Law School.

Launching Victoria’s newest law school on 24 February, the Chief Justice spoke on the role of the lawyer and the changing nature of the legal profession.

“If I may be candid, you are entering the law at a difficult time. The media reports that it is hard for lawyers to get jobs and that the profession simply does not have the capacity to absorb the growing numbers of law students, at least in the commercial space. You need not be alarmed by these realities, just be aware of them,” Chief Justice Warren said.

“You are also entering the law at a very exciting time. A time when the world’s economies are interconnected, when science, technology and innovation are driving change and new industries are emerging.”

The Chief Justice welcomed the “innovative” degree’s practical legal skills program, compulsory professional placements, examination of statutory interpretation, international law units, commercial focus and in particular its specialisation in intellectual property law.

“This aligns well with emerging industries, the demands of the legal profession and Swinburne’s vision of becoming Australia’s leading university of science, technology and innovation.

“The profession has also become highly competitive and commercialised. Following the global financial crisis, clients’ legal budgets have reduced dramatically. Law firms are therefore under growing pressure to reduce costs and add value to their services. Clients increasingly seek commercial, as well as legal, advice from their lawyers. As a result, lawyers need to understand not only the relevant law, but also how their clients operate and where they are positioned in the relevant market or industry.

“Lawyers need to be able to think on their feet, articulate and persuade. They need to be able to argue a position and negotiate an outcome. They must be ‘commercially aware’. They must have good communication skills. They must be resilient.

“Law students by their nature are high achievers and often competitive. While some competition can be healthy, too much is counterproductive. Do not put too much pressure on yourselves. Support each other.”

Professor Dan Hunter is dean of law at Swinburne University.

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