In recent years, the Australian legal profession, government policymakers and the nation’s law schools have evinced concern about the future of legal practice beyond metropolitan areas. The issues and suggested responses have been debated in various fora amongst the stakeholders. This paper explores the way in which one regional law schoolwith a distinctive approach to legal education has responded to these issues from an educational and pastoral perspective. Newcastle Law School established its Lawyers of the Future program in 2009. Lawyers of the Future is a multi-faceted initiative, which promotes professional partnerships with the secondary education sector through the Schools’ Visit program, and partnerships with rural and regional professionals through active connections in those areas. The third phase of the Lawyers of the Future program will be the development of rural and regional legal placement sites for senior law students enrolled in Newcastle’s Professional program.
Whilst the Lawyers of the Future program has three distinctive and interrelated elements and objectives, it is the placement program that provides the lynchpin. Such a placement program, which is innovative in itself, has a greater educational purpose: the experience of practice in rural and regional areas, together with the process of subsequent engaged and critical reflection, will contribute meaningfully to the development of students’ professional personae in ways which will support an ethos of professional service beyond the narrow confines of practice in the metropolis for the legal conglomerates.
rural lawyers; law education; innovations in education;