The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel's foreword to A History of Australian Legal Education captures the essence of David Barker’s project – to elevate the narrative of the development, and importance, of legal education in Australia to parallel those of England and Wales. The book achieves its purpose through a comprehensive examination of the establishment of university law schools and their interaction with the profession, the admitting authorities and the judiciary. Barker describes the growth of law schools as “waves”. His book chronicles the distinctive movements from the traditional law schools of Melbourne and Sydney in the 1850s, to the ‘second wave’ institutions of post-World War II, through to the ‘third wave’ law schools that have emerged since 1989. Of particular interest is the description of the diversity of law deans and their contributions to the culture of the law schools they led, often for lengthy periods of service. Underpinning this history is the conflict between the study of law as a scholarly exercise of the mind and training for entry to the profession. Barker concludes that a legal education, built on a rich history of academic leadership, student engagement and stakeholder influence, can achieve a liberal education that combines the discipline of law with transferable skills.
David Barker is an Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Law and was Dean of the faculty from 1997 to 2004.