Building global bridges: construction law at MLS

By Matthew Bell, Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of Studies for Construction Law

How has MLS become a globally-recognised hub for construction law? From my perspective, the key is that everything we do is guided by the needs of the construction law community.

Two decades ago, prominent members of that community came to the Law School with an idea for a teaching program that would foster greater understanding of the place of law in construction project delivery. I’m glad to say – as one of the students first admitted into the program – that MLS embraced the idea and has given it strong support in the years that followed. Moreover, we have enjoyed a close, symbiotic relationship with national and international forums including the Societies of Construction Law.

Since our construction law Masters teaching began in 2000, the program has expanded considerably. Students – typically lawyers and industry professionals from around Australia and the world – come to Melbourne for our intensively-taught subjects and then undertake their research and writing online using our extensive construction law resources. In 2017, we will offer more than 30 accredited subjects. No other construction law Masters program offers such a breadth or depth of coverage.

Professor Carolyn Evans

Just as the idea for the program came from the construction law community, it is the goodwill and dedication of members of that community that sustain it. Each year, more than 100 professionals and academics share their expertise with our students, whether as subject coordinators or guest lecturers. Their backgrounds reflect the diversity and transnational character of the industry; as well as lawyers, our students learn from industry professionals involved in some of the most prominent construction projects in Australia and beyond.

My Co-Director Wayne Jocic and I are delighted that our program has contributed to the development of construction law internationally. These contributions include our research into standard forms of construction contract, public lectures this year by Professor Doug Jones AO and Sir Vivian Ramsey and the several dozen papers by our students that have been published or won prizes. Most recently, our program has been asked to organise an Academic Forum at the International Construction Law Conference in São Paulo, Brazil, directed towards assisting colleagues to establish teaching programs in Latin America and beyond.

Ultimately, what is most satisfying for my teaching colleagues and me is the way our students learn from us, and each other, in our classrooms. In their open- minded, respectful and insightful interactions, they model the sorts of behaviour that our industry needs to build bridges between the law and construction practice in Australia and around the world.

More information about the Academic Forum at the International Construction Law Conference in São Paulo can be found at:

Image: Matthew Bell

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 16, October 2016.