News

Changing the way we think about legal education


24 July 2017

Commencing his term from Semester 2 2017, Professor Rice brings with him a different approach to the delivery of tertiary legal education
Commencing his term from Semester 2 2017, Professor Rice brings with him a different approach to the delivery of tertiary legal education

Sydney Law School is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Simon Rice, OAM as its new Director of Professional and Community Engagement.

Commencing his term from Semester 2 2017, Professor Rice brings with him a different approach to the delivery of tertiary legal education.

“I question the conventional view of lawyers as necessarily amoral actors who deliver a value-neutral service,” he said.

“I encourage students to see themselves as moral agents and as delivering a service that carries values with it, and in my experience they welcome this.”

Professor Rice observed that while actual legal rules change a lot, broad principles don’t.

“So I prefer to give less emphasis to legal rules, and more to the larger principles.

“That creates space for what I think is often missing in legal education, which is respect for the individual autonomy of students who will be lawyers, and reinforcement and promotion of their own sense of purpose.

“My teaching tends to be more about questions than answers. The students may find this unsettling to start with but then find it quite empowering. They realise I’m respecting their capacity to work out answers for themselves.”

The Dean, Professor Joellen Riley highlighted that Professor Rice will arrive with a wealth of experience in law reform and social justice initiatives.

“The appointment of Professor Simon Rice will strengthen Sydney Law School’s capabilities and commitment to greater community engagement, in both our research and the educational opportunities for our students,” she added. 

Professor Rice joins Sydney Law School from the ANU where he was Director of Law Reform and Social Justice and chair of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council. He previously held positions at Macquarie University, and UNSW where he was the Director of Kingsford Legal Centre and Director of Clinical Legal Education. He has been awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia for legal services to the economically and socially disadvantaged.

Speaking about his new role in promoting community engagement, Professor Rice is aware of a growing emphasis in legal education on practice-ready preparation.

“There is an increasing expectation that graduates will be fee earners from day one,” he said.

“But private practice is not the only destination for our students. Many students, and the general community, expect legal education to offer a broad discussion about values and the social context of law.

“Enhancing professional and community engagement is a powerful way to broaden and deepen legal education.”