Message from the Dean

My first few months as Dean have been stimulating and rewarding. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting many members of our community, whether at our Alumni Breakfast Series here in Melbourne, our public lecture series or more formal meetings and functions in both Sydney and Melbourne. I have also benefitted from the wise counsel of our alumni serving on the Law School’s Foundation Board and Advisory Council.

Professor Pip Nicholson, who is the new Dean of the Melbourne Law School.
Professor Pip Nicholson is the new Dean of Melbourne Law School. Image credit: Jorge de Araujo, Artificial Studios

This year, MLS hosts two new institutions: the Melbourne School of Government, under its new Director, Professor John Howe, and the Social Equity Institute, led by Professor Bernadette McSherry. MLS looks forward to escalating its collaboration with both institutions, while supporting them strategically. Our article in this issue outlines some of Professor Howe’s goals for the Melbourne School of Government.

In our last edition of MLS News, we spoke with Peter McMullin about the donation he and his wife Ruth have made to establish the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness. It was a pleasure to join Peter and Ruth, inaugural Centre Director Professor Michelle Foster, representatives from the United Nations and many other supporters at the Centre’s official launch in March. As we were reminded, the world’s stateless population numbers 10 million. The Centre will conduct evidence-based research to inform its research and training agendas.

We continue to innovate in both our JD and Masters curricula here at MLS. Following a JD curriculum review last year, we have made adjustments to the sequencing of compulsory subjects, prompted in part by the introduction of our new subject, Disputes and Ethics, which will provide our first year JD students with a realistic introduction to the skills, core procedural knowledge and professional responsibilities of lawyers in the (civil) legal process. By combining these compulsory subjects, we have also given our students an additional elective in the JD. As an example of course development, the JD program now  offers a suite of technology focussed electives. Students can take New Technology Law, co-taught with PwC’s Head of Digital and Technology Law in Australia; Law Apps, in which students team up to develop an app for a not-for-profit legal-service; and Start-Up Law, taught by a former Allen’s partner specialising in technology and now founder of his own law tech start-up, which provides the skills to advise start-up companies on the likely legal issues in their early years of operation. In 2018, for the first time, we also offer a Legal Research stream in ‘Law, Science, Technology and Society’. In our Melbourne Law Masters program many of our subjects also have a focus on the challenges raised by technology and data, and we are continuing to innovate and refresh our offerings. Regulation of FinTech, Internet Law, Health Law and Emerging Technologies and Digital Trade are among some of the subjects on offer this year. Our academic research is also making an impact in this area of new technology, innovation and the law – see our article for details of our new research program in health law and emerging technologies.

In this edition, we also asked some of our alumni what they think about current innovations in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, whether Australia is facing a recycling crisis, and what the challenges are for employment law with the rise of the gig economy.

Late last year we farewelled Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC, a much-loved member of the MLS community and a gentleman whose life was one of exemplary public service. Professor Tim McCormack pays tribute to Sir Ninian in this issue.

We were also saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Bob Baxt AO earlier this year. Bob is known to many of you, having had a distinguished career spanning the profession, academia and regulators. He served variously as Dean of the Faculty of Law at Monash University, as Chair of the Trade Practices Commission, as partner at Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks and Herbert Smith Freehills, and as Professor here at MLS. We will pay further tribute to Professor Baxt in our November edition of MLS News.

Each year MLS hosts outstanding events, and 2018 is no exception.  In July the Law School will host, in consecutive weeks, the leading international conferences on public law and private law. We are delighted to be co-hosting the third biennial Public Law Conference from 11-13 July in conjunction with the University of Cambridge.

The following week, MLS will co-host the ninth biennial Obligations Conference, in conjunction with the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford. Both conferences feature an exciting line-up of leading judges and scholars from the common law world. We look forward to welcoming delegates from practice, the judiciary and the academy, from across jurisdictions.

I look forward to meeting many more of you in the coming months and thank you for your ongoing contribution to our community.

With best wishes,

Professor Pip Nicholson

Dean, Melbourne Law School

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 19, May 2018