The MLS JD Curriculum Review: Topics and Process

With the JD now in its 8th year, it is an appropriate time to review the curriculum and teaching methods to see whether there are areas for improvement. This comes in the context of a degree that has had strong feedback as to quality from both students and employers.

As both legal education and the legal profession are in a period of rapid change it is timely to reconsider what we do and how we do it to ensure as high quality a JD as possible. We are looking to ensure that the JD is both a rigorous intellectual experience and one that sets up our students for strong careers outcomes both within and outside the legal profession.

To achieve these ends, MLS has established a JD Curriculum Review Committee, which will have responsibility for leading an examination into the JD and making recommendations as to suggested changes.

The JD Curriculum Review Committee Members are:

  • Jeannie Paterson, Associate Dean JD
  • Judith Marychurch, Assistant Dean Teaching and Learning
  • Julian Webb
  • Jenny Morgan
  • James Parker
  • Executive officer: Lisa Wallis

The Review Topics

The Curriculum Review Committee has identified five core topics for review. Obviously, there is considerable overlap between these topics, especially between the first and the rest; however, we have tried to separate them out for ease of handling.

  1. Core Legal Curriculum
    Compulsory and elective subjects, the principles guiding the ways in which those subjects are taught and the scope for student choice
  2. Practical Professional Skills
    Opportunities for developing core professional skills so as better to equip students for professional life both inside and outside the practice of law
  3. International Orientation
    The place of international perspectives and experiences in the curriculum
  4. Teaching Innovation
    Supporting innovative teaching
  5. Values and the Social Context
    Promoting and reinforcing MLS and professional values and an understanding of the role of law in the social context

The Curriculum Review Process

The Curriculum Review Committee envisages that the process will proceed in five stages.

Stage One: setting the scene (August – September 2015)

Stage One will involve identifying the key topics and issues for the review.

Stage Two: informal consultations (October – December 2015)

Stage Two will involve consulting with various interested groups through informal meetings and conversations:

  • Academic staff
  • Students
  • MLS professional staff
  • Employers
  • Alumni, particularly recent JD graduates.

Members of these groups will also be invited to provide feedback and make submissions after the meetings, with the opportunity to reflect on the earlier discussions.

Stage Three: developing models (January – March 2016)

In Stage Three, the Committee will use the research and consultation processes to develop 2-3 models of how a future JD might look. These models will be presented for discussion to the various consultative groups in more formal meetings.

Stage Four: reporting (April - September 2016)

Stage Four will involve the Committee incorporating feedback on the favoured model and preparing a final report.

Stage Five: compliance (October 2016 - May 2017)

Stage Five will involve the regulatory and compliance work to implement any agreed changes to the MLS curriculum, in order to commence in 2018. 

Topics not under review

A curriculum review is not a root and branch review of the JD or of the Law School. There are important issues that might be examined in other ways but that are not part of this review. These include:

  • Having a graduate rather than an undergraduate law degree
  • Selection criteria or the selection process for the JD
  • Extra-curricula activities or support offered to JD students
  • The University semester timing and exam timetable
  • A part time JD model.