It used to be that when you turned 40 you were past your prime. Not so for the Faculty of Law. The faculty, which boasts 14,600 graduates and is ranked number 43 for law schools worldwide, is only just getting started!
Next year, law is set to launch a new major – the first in its history.
Associate Professor Bronwyn Olliffe started working in the Faculty of Law in 1996. Twenty-one years into the job, she’s now one of the faculty’s longest-serving employees and was instrumental in designing what is still one of law’s most renowned programs – Practical Legal Training (PLT).
In fact, UTS was the first (and is still the only) university in Sydney to offer an accredited PLT program. It’s an essential study requirement for anyone wishing to practise law in NSW.
Olliffe says, “When we set up our course it was very new and exciting. It was different from The College of Law course – one of only two PLT programs in Sydney students had access to and had to complete after they studied law at university.
“In the first few semesters we had to offer training in computer use for some of our students. It was a far cry from the digital literacy of our students today!”
Olliffe admits it was an ambitious project. She and her colleagues set out to design the program in May of 1996, and offered it for the first time in September that same year. “So it was a lot of writing and creating on the run,” she laughs.
But with a pilot course of 52 students – a fairly large number for a new course at the time – the Faculty of Law was well on its way to celebrating the success it knows today.
It’s this practical approach that still equips UTS law with the mindset it needs to tackle the changing order of work.
Dean Lesley Hitchens says, “Over the past few years the law faculty has been a leader in the discussions over the future of the legal profession and the impact of technology.
“That thought leadership is influencing our curriculum and the opportunities we can provide our students to help them understand and navigate technological disruption.”
That’s one of the reasons why, next year, UTS law will begin offering the Legal Futures and Technology major. The new five-year degree will equip students with the skills they need to succeed in a workforce shaped by globalisation and automation.
“The changing nature of the legal profession makes it incumbent on us to reconsider traditional approaches to legal education,” explains Hitchens.
Olliffe agrees, “I think legal educators have embraced graduate attributes and making sure that not only do our students have the legal knowledge they need, but they have the skills they need as well.
“And that bodes well for both the future of the faculty and for the future of our students in a changing legal environment.”