Seeking sessional legal academics to participate in a research project

Alysia Blackham from Melbourne University is currently mid-way through a project funded by the UK Legal Education Research Network looking at casualised law teaching. As part of the project,  she has developed a survey for law school staff (both sessional and permanent) and administrators to look at conditions of employment, and how they might be linked to teaching and learning outcomes. She is extremely keen to find more participants who are themselves sessional/casual academics. Should you wish to participate in the research study, you can find details listed below.

Dear colleagues

A survey is being conducted of law academics in Australia and the UK, to consider individual experiences of working in legal academia, and the institutional impact of how academic work is structured. This survey is part of a collaborative international study, which will survey both legal academics (including permanent, sessional and contract staff) and law faculty administrators (such as heads of school or executive administrative officers). It is being conducted as part of a project funded by the UK Legal Education Research Network, and led by Dr Alysia Blackham of Melbourne Law School and the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge, and Dr Shelda Debowski, a Senior Consultant in Higher Education Development. This survey will offer important insights into how legal academics are operating in a contemporary higher education environment, and how they can best be supported in their role.

We have been asked to invite you to participate in the survey, which should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. The survey can be accessed online:

If you have any questions or comments about this survey, please contact Alysia Blackham at or Shelda Debowski at This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne (ID number 1646355.1). If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this research project, which you do not wish to discuss with the research team, you should contact the Manager, Human Research Ethics, Office for Research Ethics and Integrity, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010. Tel: +61 3 8344 2073 or Fax: +61 3 9347 6739 or Email: All complaints will be treated confidentially. In any correspondence please provide the name of the research team or the name or ethics ID number of the research project.




Resources on casualisation

Higher education is one of the most casualised sectors of the Australian economy.  For those seeking concrete information about the experiences and perspectives of sessional staff or guidance in best practice responses, here are some key Australian links.

BLASST: the Benchmarking Leadership and Advancement of Standards for Sessional Teaching project   provides best practice guidelines, benchmarking standards and a whole host of resources. BLASST is ‘a project funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching to support and enhance quality teaching by sessional staff in higher education’. It has created ‘a national Sessional Staff Standards Framework to evaluate and support the learning and teaching, management and administrative policy, procedure, and practices affecting sessional and casual teachers in higher education.’

CASA: A home online for casual, adjunct, sessional staff and their allies in Australian higher education    This blog provides insightful commentary by sessional staff about casualisation, including a semi-regular roundup of news about casualisation here and in other countries.

The National tertiary Education Union’s ‘I Stand with Casuals’ campaign offers information about the industrial rights of sessional staff in Australia (including ten tips for surviving casual employment), presents the voices of casual staff speaking about their experiences and resources for supporting sessional staff for everyone (sessional or not).

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Law as Profession or Business?

noun_107566_ccI woke recently to a twitter feed filled with news from the International Legal Ethics Conference in New York. There were a few sessions that really interested me, and I captured the tweets in a series on Storify. (The final in this series of four.)

I recall when first starting in legal practice in 1990 the recognition by the profession that we were in fact a business. Not all accepted this of course. It’s interesting to see the debate continuing some two decades later. In terms of legal education, there are some interesting facets to this argument. How do we continue to teach ethics and professionalism if what we knew as a profession is now no more than a business? (I know that there will be some strong responses to this question…)

You can find this Storify here.

Lawyering in International Security Crises

noun_143465_cc I woke recently to a twitter feed filled with news from the International Legal Ethics Conference in New York. There were a few sessions that really interested me, and I captured the tweets in a series on Storify. (This is the third of four posts.)

As law teachers grapple with the nature and purpose of legal education, it is instructive to consider the diverse roles of the lawyer, including roles that may not have been available when we ourselves graduated. Now, with increasing opportunities for law student and graduate internships with international agencies, the role of lawyer in an international security crisis need not be the stuff of the imagination.

I was interested to see the ILEC twitter feed on this topic, highlighting the ethical and professional issues for lawyers in just these circumstances.

You can find this Storify here.

Lawyering for Good

noun_48290_ccI woke recently to a twitter feed filled with news from the International Legal Ethics Conference in New York. There were a few sessions that really interested me, and I captured the tweets in a series on Storify. (This is the second of four posts.)

There is an emerging scholarship of heroism science that I find intriguing – in particular its potential to explore the nature of lawyering. Interestingly, at the ILEC conference I noticed tweets about the lawyer as hero, notably in strategic human rights litigation. The tweets are brief of course, but the germs of an idea they contain is food for thought.

You can find this Storify here.

Second semester is coming…

For those institutions still working on a two semester timetable, second semester is upon us.  For sessional staff new to teaching law, and those who would like to develop their skills, the existing three Smart Casual modules are available free for your use here.  They address the teaching skills involved in Engagement, Problem Solving and Feedback.  The next five modules are nearing completion and will be available free online in September here.

If you are a sessional law teacher, feel free to share these links with your colleagues as well as using them yourself.  If you are responsible for supervision and/or employment of sessional law teachers, please share these resources with your sessional colleagues.

Access to professional development is an important aspect of employment in higher education that many tenured staff take for granted.  We can all help to support our sessionally employed colleagues, and ensure that they are included in the ordinary expectation of workplace life by helping to and make sure that sessional teachers can access resources and opportunities available to other staff.


Smart Casual Goes Global!

In June, Natalie Skead took our Smart Casual project to the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s inaugural Conference on Teaching and Learning in Law Conference. With ‘Directions in Legal Education’ as the theme the conference provided a perfect platform to showcase the strides the Smart Casual team is making in supporting sessional law teaching in a rapidly changing legal education landscape.

Further afield, in July, Alex Steel presented Smart Casual to the home of Jazz and Blues, New Orleans. Stay tuned for Alex’s update.



Smart Casual via podcast

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Were you sorry to have missed the Australasian Law Teachers’ Association Conference in Wellington New Zealand? Well there is good news. The Law Radio team has recorded a few of the sessions, and published them on their podcast where you can download them via Soundcloud and iTunes.

Relevant to the Smart Casual project, the Law Radio series features Mary Heath and Kate Galloway presenting the Smart Casual project’s approach to teaching legal thinking skills.



Globalized Legal Profession

noun_475867_ccI woke recently to a twitter feed filled with news from the International Legal Ethics Conference in New York. There were a few sessions that really interested me, and I captured the tweets in a series on Storify. (The first in a series of four.)
This session concerned the globalized legal profession and in particular, questions about governance and ethics affecting the (not-so-) new global professional order. If you are interested about the background on this, Faulconbridge and Muzio provide an interesting overview. I think that these ideas have important implications for Australian (and international) legal education.
You can find this storify here.