The male professoriate in law

A male law professor mentioned to me recently that in his experience, if you just do your work, and do it well, then your career will progress – rewards will flow. I was somewhat taken aback by this statement and pointed out that this certainly was not my own experience, and was unlikely to be the experience of many women in academia. Indeed, I suspect this is not the case in any profession.

It got me thinking about the makeup of Australian law schools. We currently have many women law deans around the country – though I do note that some are punching above their weight, holding the role of dean at a substantive position lower than professor. The law school is a feminised work force in many respects – women are highly visible in so many law schools. However I suspect that this is because women form the bulk of our casualised workforce, teaching sessionally.

I wondered though about the makeup of the professoriate. With so many women – and so many capable women – one might expect that there would be equality in the upper ranks of the law school. Let’s see if the numbers bear this out.

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Semantics or substance? Plebiscite/survey

Since my last post, I’ve developed a particular sensitivity to the language surrounding Australia’s marriage equality process. 

Billed by the government as a plebiscite using ‘one vote one value’ (Matthias Cormann on 10 August), a ‘democratic right’ to ‘vote’ on the question of marriage equality (Julie Bishop on 10 August), and having ‘the look and feel of an election’ (Allan Tudge on 9 August), in fact the government has directed the ABS to run a survey.

The legal questions as to the process therefore centre on the lawfulness of the direction under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act, and the question of funding. 

The High Court of Australia will today hear two challenges to the survey. While some have expressed the challenge in terms of its undemocratic nature, I can’t see that this is relevant to the question of the lawfulness of a *survey*. 

Questions about democratic process are valid. But these are not legal questions to be heard by the High Court so long as the relevant process occurs under the Census and Statistics Act.

The relevant processes are the processes of surveys and of statistics. Statistics involves questions such as sample size and selection, population distribution, and the like. Survey methods go to the reliability of inferences drawn from the analysis. They do not involve questions of fairness, rights, legitimacy, or democracy. 

Further, a survey instrument is not a ballot and a survey response is not a vote. Defects in sampling methods are not voter fraud.

Because the government promised a plebiscite, we remain focused on democratic process and so we continue to frame our questions in this way. Even government ministers are stuck in their own language of a citizens’ vote.

But until we can clearly analyse the reality of the legal background to the process as one of statistical collection, we will be less able to analyse its validity – both under the law, and as to its ultimate statistical outcome.

Plebiscite not within ABS role

The Australian government has, notoriously, decided to run what it calls a plebiscite on the question of marriage equality in Australia. It will put up a bill to set up the running of the plebiscite as a mainstream vote, but this is expected to fail. Its fallback position is to have the Australian Bureau of Statistics (‘ABS’) run a voluntary postal vote.

On a straightforward reading of the relevant statutes, it is unlikely that the ABS is empowered by its legislation to run the vote. The former head of the ABS appears also to hold this view.

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Legal citations 2.0

Post by Kate Galloway and Melissa Castan. Cite as:
Kate Galloway and Melissa Castan, ‘Legal Citations 2.0’ Katgallow (21 June 2017) https://kategalloway.net/2017/06/21/legal-citations-2-0/

Library

The leading work on legal citations in Australia is the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (‘AGLC’). The AGLC, currently working on a 4th edition, provides users with a comprehensive style guide for all legal writing from use of capitals, through to citation of international treaty materials. (For an example of the current application of the AGLC, see eg this article.)

The explosion of online and other digital sources poses a challenge to most standard r

eferencing styles – as is clearly articulated by Prof Patrick Dunleavy, in this post. For legal citation in Australia, much of this development has occurred since the publication of the third edition of the AGLC, making it timely to reconfigure some of the key guiding principles behind legal citation.

As editors of the Alternative Law Journal and the Legal Education Review respectively, Melissa Castan and I increasingly encounter diverse forms of reference and referencing. In response, and this post, we propose a reorientation of the analogue focus of the AGLC to adapt and address the digital landscape of legal scholarship.

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The legal profession’s ‘black swan’ problem

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A black swan is an event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and is extremely difficult to predict.

The term ‘black swan’ derives from the story that the English had traditionally defined the word ‘swan’ as a bird that was white. Swans’ whiteness was integral to their ‘swanness’. When the English came to Australia and saw black swans, they were thrown by this completely unexpected event. If swans were by definition white, what was this black bird? It was impossible to have predicted the event of a black swan because of the circumscribed definition of swan.

Author Nicholas Taleb used the term ‘black swan’ in his best selling book. He suggests that we cannot predict the future if we expect the current circumstances to continue on the same trajectory as they have in the past. I think that the legal profession is in such a predicament.

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Are we seeing the devolution of university education?

cracked institutionYesterday the Australian Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, announced cuts to higher education funding and increases in student fees. In addition, the income threshold for repayment of student debt will be reduced. Funding for teaching will be reduced in 2019 by $380 million relative to the current funding formula.

Universities are huge institutions requiring significant funding to maintain their operations. Yet they face hefty competition from global and increasingly accessible, technologies. Instead of a future of under-funded universities, I see their devolution altogether – at least in terms of education, if not of research.

The change will not be quick. A higher degree (bachelors or above) is now the entry point for the regulated professions. These professions, including law, use course accreditation as a means of guaranteeing standards of graduate entry. For unregulated professions (such as marketing, or banking) the market determines the entry requirement, and that is generally a bachelors degree.

But things are changing, and universities’ role can no longer be taken for granted.

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The trouble with the McGlade amendments to the Native Title Act

Lump-o-coal

The dominant discourse in native title amendments is that of … coal?

In June 2015, the Australian Law Reform Commission handed down its final report into the Native Title Act. Amongst its recommendations was the amendment of provisions for the process of authorising Indigenous land use agreements (‘ILUAs’).

Coinciding with the ALRC Report, the Northern Development White Paper proposed a fund to settle all native title claims within a decade.

There has been no response to either the Report and the White Paper that might indicate just how native title processes might be improved, let alone settled, in the short or medium term. All of a sudden however, native title reform is back in vogue. But the heat of debate over proposed changes to ILUA authorisation masks what is at stake.

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‘Add tech and stir’ is no recipe for innovation

AddTech.pngMy previous post gave an overview of the Law Society of New South Wales’ flip Report, on the future of law and innovation in the profession. My overall impression is that the Report might provide a useful and very gentle overview of the road ahead, but fails to engage in any real sense with the way in which technology will – and already is – changing law and legal practice.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the chapter devoted to legal education. This poses a real limit on the possibilities for innovation – especially to the extent that regulatory bodies are likely to accept the Report’s statement that existing knowledge and skills must remain.

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A roadmap for the legal profession: flip

Robot Lawyer

‘The robots are taking our jobs!’*

The Law Society of New South Wales (‘LSNSW’) has recently released its flip Report (the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession). Through submissions and a series of hearings between May and November 2016, the Futures Committee has provided the profession with a readable overview of the contemporary environment for the practice of law in New South Wales. And, I dare say, in the rest of Australia and probably beyond.

 

The Report responds to the exponential rate of change faced by the legal profession, notably through the advent of new technologies. It provides not only a series of key findings, but also a series of recommendations concerning the role of the LSNSW in supporting innovation in the profession.

In this post I provide some initial thoughts on the overarching approach of the Report.

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When should an MP claim expenses?

MPs are currently battling public perceptions of their use of parliamentary entitlements. On the radio this morning, the Trade Minister effectively told listeners that it was the core business of MPs – and ministers in particular – to use the entitlements system to attend corporate boxes at high profile sporting events where public companies showcase themselves.

Parliamentarians talk of reform to the system, but sadly, the lack of action reveals the pervasiveness of entitlement gratification.

To assist MPs in understanding whether an event warrants a call on the public purse, I have designed this modest flow chart.

should-i-claim-my-mps-entitlements_-page-1