ADR in Australian Legal Education

Alperhan Babacan and Oz Susler

Dr. Alperhan Babacan holds Honours degrees in Law and Political Science, a PhD and a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching in Learning. Dr Babacan is admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and High Court of Australia and has extensive experience in legal practice and legal education. In academia, Dr Babacan has held various senior positions including as Chair of Criminology at Navitas, deputy head of School at Swinburne university and as Director of the Juris Doctor program at RMIT University. Dr Babacan has extensive experience in unit and course development, accreditation and review. He has published very widely in areas of law, criminology and teaching and learning in the higher education sector with a specific focus on the scholarship of learning in legal education.

Much has been written about the benefits of ADR in legal education across the globe and in Australia.  Various reports over the last forty years have criticised the emphasis placed on  traditional Australian legal education – on the teaching of legal rules and doctrine and the focus on analysis and synthesis of these rules, coupled with the adversarial approach to legal education in the absence of skills training. The common thread running through these reports was that law graduates lacked practical legal experience and that there was a need to better align the provision of skills training and education around legal rules and theory in the legal education curriculum, so that students were provided with both academic knowledge and skills necessary for legal practice. The reports encouraged law schools to incorporate specific legal skills into the law curriculum.

Since the 1980s, law schools in Australia have incrementally incorporated the teaching of skills that form the basis of legal practice, evident through the introduction of clinical legal education (CLE) and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The teaching of ADR to law students provides them with alternative dispute resolution options within an ethical framework, counters the formation of an adversarial legal identity and its vocational nature greatly assists to effectively impart lawyering skills. The most common forms of ADR that are taught in Australian law schools is mediation and negotiation.

In order to effectively build legal skills and to counter the formation of an adversarial legal identity, ADR needs to be included as a stand-alone and significant element of the law curriculum. Yet in Australia, there has been resistance to including ADR in the law curriculum[1] and differing approaches adopted by law schools to incorporate ADR in the law curriculum: it can be included as a specific ADR unit, incorporated into a particular law unit or can form part of a CLE unit.  Generally, ADR is included as an ‘add on’ to law courses with a minimalist approach taken by many law schools to its meaningful inclusion in the curriculum. This approach reflects the convergence of two competing functions of Australian legal education: the provision of education to law students with knowledge of rules and legal theory on the one hand, and the instilling of legal practice and alternative skills on the other.  James advances that legal education in Australia does not consist of a ‘stable and consistent body of knowledge and practices’ (James, 2004) and is characterised by six dominant competing discourses.[2]

He describes these discourses as ‘modes of power-knowledge’ and identifies these as doctrinalism, vocationalism, corporatism, liberalism, pedagogicalism and radicalism.[3]  These six approaches to legal education reflect the competing manner in which skills training is offered in the law curriculum, particularly with respect to the minimalist approach taken by law schools to include ADR in the law curriculum. In recognition of the importance of the key role ADR can play in ‘learning by doing’ and developing lawyering skills, La Trobe University Law School is one of the few law schools in Australia where Dispute Resolution has been included as a compulsory first year law unit.  

There have been calls for the inclusion of ADR as a mandatory part of the law curriculum.[4] These calls are highly justified given that ADR has been a mandatory feature of litigation processes for a considerable period of time. In addition, the inclusion of ADR as a meaningful aspect of the law curriculum will greatly assist law schools to meet the requirements of the Threshold Learning Outcomes (TLOs), developed and adopted by the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) in 2009. The TLOs reflect what a Bachelor of Laws graduate is expected to ‘know, understand and be able to do’ as a result of learning and cover areas relating to: knowledge (TLO 1), ethics and professional responsibility (TLO2), thinking skills (TLO 3), research skills (TLO 4), communication and collaboration (TLO 5), and self-management (TLO 6).[5]  

Over the years, some law academics have been advocating for the meaningful inclusion of ADR into the legal education curriculum. Such an undertaking needs to be informed by best practice and evidence and necessitates the allocation of resources by law schools.  Serious consideration needs to be given by law schools to include ADR in the law curriculum in a comprehensive manner to ensure that students are effectively educated and trained for legal practice.  


  1. Collins, P. 2015. “Resistance to the teaching of ADR in the legal academy”,  Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal, 26(2): 64-74.
  2. James, N ‘Australian Legal Education and the Instability of Critique’ (2004) 28 Melbourne University Law Review 375-405.
  3. Ibid.
  4. See e.g. Duffy, J. and Field, R. 2014. “Why ADR must be a mandatory subject in the law degree : A cheat sheet for the willing and a primer for the non-believer”, Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal,25(1): 9-19.
  5. Threshold Learning Outcomes. 2010.  Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Project  Bachelor of Laws Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement December 2010, Australian Learning and Teaching Council.


The common missions of ADR and clinical legal education provide a solid foundation for teaching ADR in clinic

This paper is part of a series presented at the 2018 7th ADR Research Network
Roundtable hosted by University of the Sunshine Coast Law School. The 8th ADR Research Network Roundtable will be held in December 2019 in Melbourne, hosted by LaTrobe Law School.

by Jackie Weinberg , Monash Law School

Over recent years, ADR has become an integral part of Australian legal practice. This, along with a number of other forces, has led to a recognition that ADR needs to be taught in law schools. In my PhD research, I explore whether it follows that ADR should be taught in clinical legal education (CLE). In this paper, I report the findings from my PhD research addressing the question of the role of ADR in CLE. Drawing upon interviews with clinicians, I consider whether ADR ‘fits’ within CLE, and if so, on what basis.

jackie paper 2 2018

Jackie presenting her paper on 3 December 2018

My paper shows that clinicians saw CLE as striving to have a strong link to “social justice” and “legal service”. Similarly, they viewed ADR as having access to justice as its focus. Although the links were not always explicitly made by the participants, the implicit connection and “value” of ADR in CLE, in their minds, indicated that they both align with a common goal of furthering access to justice. Clinicians believed that a common mission exists between ADR and CLE in the form of the advancement of social justice. Community Legal Centres (CLCs), incorporating clinical programs, utilise ADR to accomplish their mission of social justice and this facilitates the implementation of clinical practice goals.

Some clinicians expressed caution that there are limitations in relation to ADR providing access to justice. However, in the course of exploring with the participants the issues and concerns of both CLE and ADR, it became apparent that clinicians still viewed ADR as integrally linked to social justice concerns and the advancement of access to justice. Clinicians viewed ADR as a valuable component of CLE, enhancing student awareness about social justice and the various options for dispute resolution. Bloch echoes these views, stating “clinical legal education has always had a broader goal-to teach law students about what lawyers do and to understand lawyers’ professional role in the legal system in the context of having students provide various forms of legal aid services.”[1] Bloch goes on to emphasise that because ADR and clinical education share overlapping goals of advancing the interests of parties and addressing deficiencies in access to justice, ADR education and CLE are “slowly integrating and advancing beyond the teaching and practice of basic negotiation skills that have been included in the clinical curriculum for years.”[2] Bloch opines, “clinical programs that teach and practice ADR can inform, improve, and reform not only legal education, but also-over time-the practice of law and the legal profession as well, thereby furthering the social justice goals of the global clinical movement.”[3]

From my findings and supported literature, I argue that the close association between the social justice “missions” of CLE and ADR, enhanced by their relationships with CLCs and legal aid programs, provides a solid foundation for the teaching of ADR in CLE.



Jackie Weinberg is a law lecturer, PhD Candidate, and Clinical Supervisor in Monash Legal Practice Programs at the Faculty of Law, Monash University. Jackie’s research is focused on an exploration of ADR in clinical legal education. Jackie recently published an article in the IJCLE titled: Keeping Up With Change: No Alternative To Teaching ADR In Clinic. An Australian Perspective. In addition to ADR, Jackie has keen interest in student well-being and technology and the law, focusing on access to justice in clinical legal education.


[1] Frank S. Bloch, The Global Clinical Movement (Oxford University Press, 2011) 167

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Teaching Mediation In Brazil And Australia: Can We Improve Access To Justice?

This paper is part of a series presented at the 2018 7th ADR Research Network
Roundtable hosted by University of the Sunshine Coast Law School. The 8th ADR Research Network Roundtable will be held in December 2019 in Melbourne, hosted by LaTrobe Law School.


By Professor Cristiana Vianna Veras, Visiting Scholar at Flinders University 


The development of the mediation as an institution can be understood as global phenomenon, since several countries present different state and societal experiences of this form of conflict resolution. Although some countries have been working to institutionalize mediation for more than three decades, we can say that mediation is still a “young” experience and now seems to have spread everywhere. In Brazil, the institutionalization of mediation began in 2009 and was encouraged in the field of the Judiciary through a public policy to promote the application of consensual forms of conflict resolution that, through a discourse of social pacification and better adaptation of the form of treatment of social conflicts, sought to reduce the number of lawsuits, currently one of the biggest problems confronting the Brazilian judicial system.[1]


Professor Cristiana Vianna Veras presenting her work at the 7th ADR Roundtable on 4 December 2018

Different actors participate in the applied field of mediation in Brazil. On the one hand, as a pioneer in this field, non-governmental organizations and private institutes, were first responsible for implementing the initial practical training of the first mediators, and have since multiplied in number. On the other hand, the State, or more specifically, the Judiciary has reserved to itself the task of conducting mediations. Alongside these two main actors, a third can now be added: Brazilian law schools, which also participate in mediation in different ways.

In Brazil, law schools are overseen by the federal government, through regulations determined by the Ministry of Education. All law courses must conform to a core curriculum specified by national directives, although each law school is free to interpret this normative guidance. Due to this national curriculum, all law courses cover a range of theoretical disciplines and many courses include in this curriculum a topic on alternative dispute resolution and/or mediation.

In addition to theoretical subjects, all Brazilian law courses are obliged to offer a Center of Legal Practice that can act from simulations (abstract cases) and / or from a real service aimed at low-income people, with some courses offering mediation simulations or offering this possibility of conflict resolution to the local community.

Hence, there are three distinct possible spaces for mediation in law courses in Brazil: a theoretical space, a space of simulation and a space for serving the low-income population. Creating new dialogue within and between these actors who participate in the movement toward institutionalizing mediation is one of the primary goals of my research.

One perspective that helps to better understand these dialogues is the phenomenon of access to justice captured by the metaphor of waves by Mauro Cappelletti and Bryant Garth.[2]  These scholars identified measures implemented by different countries to make legal services more efficient, to better protect collective rights and to make the highly bureaucratized Judiciary more informal.

Mediation is mainly connected with the third wave of Cappelletti, as it is included in the experiences of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and the trilogy of arbitration, conciliation and mediation that together constitute the process of informal justice. However, mediation is not just an alternative way of conflict resolution. To understanding of its full scope and meaning we should add to the three waves of Cappelletti, a fourth wave identified by Kim Economides[3] in 1997, namely lawyers’ (and judges) access to justice. This fourth waves also raises the issue of what kind of justice it is that which we wish to give access to?
Since mediation is a way of resolving conflict by the “parties themselves” (but with the assistance of a mediator), it may define new criteria of justice – which do not necessarily correspond to the criteria of state/legal justice – in the light of the parties’ own understanding of what is fair and appropriate for them.

In this context, many questions arise: how does mediation – theoretical, simulated or practical – act in terms of the different access to justice waves? What impact does a course on theoretical mediation have on law students? How many law students will intend to use mediation in their professional practice? Is there a more appropriate form of teaching mediation in order to encourage students to work with mediation in their future professional practice? Does experience with the simulations and/or real cases brought by low in-come users encourage students to use mediation in their professional practice?

Also important, is the response of law students exposed to this new form of conflict resolution confined to Brazil? Or is it the case that, in other countries where mediation has been longer established, we find a different response? Do these countries still have a dominant adversarial legal culture? To try to answer these questions, I am conducting comparative and empirical research on law students from three universities: Flinders University, Fluminense Federal University (UFF/public) and Pontifical Catholic University (PUC/private). After comparing the process/methods of the teaching of mediation in Brazil and in Australia, and whether they motivate law students to work with mediation in their future professional practice, I will analyze the contribution of teaching mediation in law school to the process of improving access to justice.

cris 2

There was strong engagement with Chris’ work during her session, including from commentator Dr Lola Akin Ojelabi, LaTrobe Law

Professor Cristiana Vianna Veras is a Visiting Scholar at Flinders University – Adelaide/SA in 2018/2019. She is also a Professor at School of Law of Federal Fluminense University – Rio de Janeiro/Brasil. Cris can be contacted on and

[1] To understand the process of implementing of mediation in the Brazilian Judiciary and the main objective behind the official state discourse, see two studies of cases: Kilpo, Klever Paulo Leal. Dilemas da mediação de conflitos no Tribunal de Justiça do Rio de Janeiro. Tese de doutorado apresentada à Universidade Gama Filho. Rio de Janeiro: 2014 and Veras, Cristiana. Um estranho na orquestra, um ruído na música: a apropriação da mediação pelo poder judiciário a partir de uma experiência no Cejusc do TJRJ. Tese apresentada à Universidade Federal Fluminense. Rio de Janeiro: 2015.

[2]  Cappelletti, Mauro e Garth, Bryant. Acesso à Justiça. Porto Alegre: Sérgio Fabris, 1988.

[3] Economides, Kim. “Lendo as ondas do “Movimento de Acesso à Justiça”: epistemologia versus metodologia?” in Dulce Chaves Pandolf e outros (orgs). Cidadania, justiça e violência. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 1999. English version: Economides, Kim “Reading the Waves of Access to Justice” Bracton Law Journal, Vol.31, 1999, pp.58-70.

Call for Papers for a Special Edition Australian Journal of Clinical Education

The Australian Journal of Clinical Education (AJCE) is an open access double blind peer reviewed journal devoted to issues of practice and innovation in clinical education in the disciplines of Law and Health Professional Education.


Guest editor: Dr Bobette Wolski


Photo Credit: Russ Seidel, Colour and Shape, Creative Commons


An understanding of dispute resolution theory and the development of dispute resolution skills are now considered to be a crucial part of a balanced education in a wide variety of disciplines and programs. It is generally accepted that learning about dispute resolution is best facilitated using simulations, roleplays and clinical experiences. It is through such learning experiences that our students gain, amongst other things, competency in communication skills, an understanding of human
emotions and needs, and an understanding of and appreciation for the variety of ways in which disputes may be resolved (or at least, managed). However, while much has been written about the teaching of dispute resolution, there are still many questions that remain unanswered, and challenges to be overcome.


The AJCE invites contributions for a special issue of the journal which will focus on the teaching and learning of dispute resolution in higher education. The issue will be edited by Dr Bobette Wolski (Guest Editor) and Dr Francina Cantatore (Editor-in-Chief).

The Editors invite submissions of articles for review and publication in Volume 4, 2018 from academics, researchers, practitioners and students on all matters relating to the learning and teaching of dispute resolution in higher education in law and health care in Australia and globally.
Submissions could address, but would not be limited to, topics such as:
1. Effective ways in which to integrate dispute resolution education in the curriculum or program of learning
2. The impact of emergent technologies on the learning and teaching of dispute resolution
3. Teaching and learning of dispute resolution to make a positive impact on student well-being
4. How to prepare students for the increasing importance of dispute resolution in the global environment
5. Innovations in teaching and learning of dispute resolution
6. Tried and true: teaching methodologies that have been effective in teaching dispute
resolution theory and practice
7. Teaching for interdisciplinary understanding and practice of dispute resolution
8. Dispute resolution and access to justice
9. Can we teach students to act ethically in dispute resolution and if so, how and why?
10. Any other topics relevant to the teaching and learning of dispute resolution.

Please submit an abstract of your paper (abstracts should be no longer than 300 words in length) by 31 May 2018. In the first instance, abstracts should be forwarded to Bobette Wolski by email addressed to: Please include your position description, organisation and contact details in the abstracts. Authors will then be invited to submit full texts of papers to the journal website.

The submission deadline for full papers is 31 August 2018.

It is anticipated that the special issue, which will be published as Volume 4, 2018, will be published late this year or early next year.
The style guideline is available here.
For more information visit here.

Experiencing the Potential of Mediation

The Australian ADR academic community is committed to ensuring that ADR is embedded across the syllabus of Australian Law Schools. This has been assisted by the agreement that ADR will be delivered within Civil Procedure as part of the Priestley 11.

This is an important achievement and owes some of its success to the efforts of our own ADR Research Network members who have championed the change – including, for example, Rachael Field and Kathy Douglas. As part of building the value of ADR teaching and learning, we continually seek opportunities for students to experience the potential of ADR processes, and to develop as practitioners whose skills are relevant nationally and internationally.

The ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition is one such opportunity. An annual event offered in Paris, the ICC now also offers an annual Asia-Pacific Commercial Mediation Competition, for teams who wish to compete with our Asia-Pacific neighbours.

I am just back from Paris where the 4 team-members from UNSW, were this year’s  competition winners.

ICC 2018 winners (1)

Team UNSW ICC Winners 2018. Photo Credit: ICC, with permission

Approached by Kluwer to blog about the competition and the opportunities it provides to students internationally, I was delighted share my views about its enduring value which stretches far beyond the competition itself.

My blogpost includes seven insights that provide a foundation for successfully coaching a team as I have had the privilege to do for the past 12 years. I also hope my insights might be a resource for those who are teaching negotiation, mediation and dispute resolution at a tertiary level.

See you in Paris 2019!

Unnecessarily Adversarial: Has the Time Come For a New Criminal Defence Paradigm?


By Joana Bourouphael

This post is written by Joana Bourouphael, a student who studied Non-Adversarial Justice at the Faculty of Law at Monash University in 2016. Joana was part of the unique placement program for that unit, an example of Work Integrated Learning. In the program, students spend 3-5 days at an organisation experiencing both adversarial and ‘non-adversarial’ practices. Students are then expected to produce a written assignment that addresses both practical and theoretical insights into an issue relating to non-adversarial justice. This post demonstrates how direct experience of legal processes enriches the learning experiences of participating students.

head in hands

Photo Credit: L’art au present

This post has been written in response to a placement I completed where I shadowed a barrister in a murder trial. The majority of my observances surrounded witness examination. The post begins with a brief description of my experience of the adversary system and what I was able to witness. This is followed by an introduction to the adversary system in Australia and the features of it that are relevant for my critique. Some problems of the adversary system are then highlighted before proposals for reform are suggested.



The first time I stepped into the courtroom, I believe I had done so with an open mind. I had been sceptical of all the bad press that adversarialism had received and was of the firm view that in certain circumstances adversarialism was nothing short of necessary. Success of non-adversarial approaches in the criminal justice system has often been limited to and has tended to focus on areas such as substance-abuse and mental health. Naturally then, I did not expect to walk out of a murder trial frustrated at the fact it was too adversarial, or what I would describe as unnecessarily adversarial. And yet, that is exactly what happened.

Perhaps setting the scene would prove helpful. Picture this: a quivering witness, a fully grown adult male, nervously sweating and anxiously fiddling with the pen in front of him, umming and ahing as he was cross-examined by the straight-faced defence counsel, looking back and forth between the judge, the lawyer, and the 12 members of the jury who all starred at this man. He had come forward to the police with his evidence out of his own choice, as he attempted to respond to, ‘You consider yourself a clever person, don’t you Mr X? So why can’t you answer my question with a simple yes or no?’ In the meantime, behind the patronising echoes of the defence counsel, tucked away at the back of the court, sat a man clutching a rosary as he attempted, and failed, at holding himself back from tears. A man who, at the end of the trial, may very well be spending the rest of his life in prison and yet his only contribution to this long and gruelling process was to sit at the back of the court room day after day, as mere observer in a trial that had the potential to affect the rest of his life.

Watching this scene unfold, I thought back to a passage from one of the introductory readings from the Australian Law Reform Commission 103 [1.119] for the Monash University Non-Adversarial Justice unit:

 ‘The term “adversarial” also connotes a competitive battle between foes or contestants and is often associated in popular culture with partisan and unfair litigation tactics. Battle and sporting imagery are commonly used in reference to our legal system. Lawyers’ anecdotes about the courtroom are “war stories”.’

Although, at the time, I thought of this passage as an exaggerated view of the adversarial system: mere hyperbole used in order to stimulate change, the scene I witnessed before me seemed to act out this description perfectly. As Enright puts forward in his article ‘Tactical Adversarialism and Protective adversarialism, ‘many lawyers are culturally attached to, if not addicted to, the notion of adversarialism’ (Despite its attraction for lawyers, the prevalence of the adversarial system should be dependent on its functional adequacy and its ability to effectively and efficiently deliver the goals of the court.



 The key aspect of Australia’s adversarial legal system is that it gives primacy to the parties. In essence, and as put forward by the Australian Law Reform Commission 103 [1.117], ‘the parties, not the judge, have the primary responsibility for defining the issues in dispute and for carrying the dispute forward’. The presiding judge takes no part in the investigation or the calling of evidence and their intervention during the trial is usually minimal. In Doggett v The Queen (2001), Gleeson CJ described such a system as reflecting ‘values that respect both the autonomy of the parties to the trial process and the impartiality of the judge and jury’. The adversarial system prides itself on certain strengths, which the Australian Law Reform Commission 32 [2.38] considers to include, ‘impartiality, independence, consistency, flexibility and the democratic character’ of its processes.

In Queen v Whithom (1983), Dawson J said that, ‘A trial does not involve the pursuit of truth by any means’. It has become rather evident that, in the adversarial system, justice means adherence to process. Truth is subservient to proof. Enright refers to adversarialism as a ‘prove it’ system, whereby the adversaries who access the court must prove their case to the required standard; it is then for the court to declare a ‘winner’. This imagery of competition and battle reoccurs throughout the literature analysing the system, highlighting that the framework itself is based on conflict rather than cooperation, a criticism of the system that will be discussed in relation to my personal observations.



 Geoffrey Robertson QC in 1998 said in his book The Justice Game, ‘we can’t avoid the fact that the adversary system does make justice a game’. This focus on justice as something to be won or lost like a pawn on a chessboard, as opposed to the aspiration for justice to be attained, is certainly not a new image of the system. Enright tells us that, over time, the adversarial system has been described as one where the parties ‘fight the contest’ and become ‘ego-invested in appearing ‘right’ and ‘winning’’, where the focus is on ‘game-playing’, ‘ignoring the human element’, competing in a ‘battle’, which is a ‘fight to the death where the winner was the last man standing’ ().

Although I had hoped the above descriptions would be far from accurate when I witnessed a trial for myself, I can only say with grave disappointment that my experience of the adversarial system failed to prove those descriptions wrong. My critique, and therefore also my proposals for reform, focuses mainly on the defence barrister, who exploited his right to ask leading questions with total disregard for what effect this would have on the witnesses he was cross-examining. The barrister’s aggressive demeanour and patronising tone had different affects on different witnesses. Many looked as though they were uncomfortable, eager for their questioning to conclude so they could leave. Some became frustrated with the defence counsel’s approach, whilst others became genuinely distressed by the process. Even I, as an observer, felt uncomfortable and concerned for the witness. It is not that what the defence counsel was doing was wrong. Counsel was seeking to discredit witnesses and poke holes of doubt into the prosecution’s case; a reasonable approach to take. It is difficult to see, however, how these methods of using the witnesses merely as a means to an end can be justified. Moreover, as an observer, and as I suspect the jury felt, I couldn’t help but naturally feel against the defence. It is difficult to want to trust and believe someone who appears willing to go to any lengths to prove themselves right and ‘win’.



 The Hon Michael Kirby warns us not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. An adversarial system will inevitably give rise to adversarialism, and some adversarialism is indeed necessary. Although it is not recommended that adversarialism be removed in its entirety, (after all, it does come with its benefits), it is arguable that the system has become unnecessarily adversarial. Enright distinguishes between this ‘good’ and ‘bad’ adversarialism, distinguishing ‘protective’ adversarialism, which is essential for justice, and ‘tactical’ adversarialism, which is toxic to justice. He says that tactical adversarialism ‘occurs where the rules and practices allow a lawyer to attempt to win the case by means of tricks and stratagems that have no connection with the merits of the case’. It is this desire to win at all costs, which is sometimes referred to as ‘zealous advocacy’, that I was able to witness for myself in the defence lawyer (King et al, 2014, 266). It is this ‘tactical’ adversarialism, which is unnecessary and unjustifiably present in the justice system, that should be ‘thrown out’.


 Moving forward, one of the simplest and arguably most effective reforms would be in the field of legal education. Reforming legal education to focus less on what lawyers need to know and more on what lawyers need to do would help solve some of the problems with the adversarial system that were adumbrated earlier on. By reforming legal education, the legal profession is inadvertently affected and therefore, so is the justice system itself. Making positive changes to the way students are taught in law school would remove the unnecessary adversarialism in both legal practice and culture.

Currently in Australia, law schools are highly competitive environments that use case-based teachings, which focus on appellate judgments and use written examinations to assess students. Freiberg, in her journal ‘Non-adversarial approaches to criminal justice’, says that, ‘current teaching practices are, to a large extent, based on the adversarial paradigm’, but it is possible for this argument to work both ways. Although the adversarial framework of the Australian system has meant that legal education has followed this practice to give rise to law courses that are inherently adversarial, the emphasis law schools put on adversarialism has arguably fuelled or exacerbated this culture of competition and the image of the lawyer as a ‘zealous advocate’. In order to change the legal culture so that a defence lawyer doesn’t feel the need to push a witness to what might be described as the edge of having a breakdown, at the off chance that this would better help him ‘win’, it is necessary to address the problem at its root: law schools which plant seeds of adversarialism into each and every law student.

Countless reports and papers have been published recommending such reform. The Australian Law Reform Commission stated that legal education should focus on what lawyers need to be able to do, as opposed to what they need to know; the MacCrate Report by the American Bar Association in 1992 recommended traditional legal teachings be integrated with practical lawyering skills; the Carnegie Report said that there should be ethical and social skills teaching in order to engage the ‘moral imagination’ of students. How can these recommendations be brought to life in law schools?

The content of the curriculum of law schools requires change. The aims of law schools need to be re-evaluated and reflected through their teachings. The “Priestley 11”, as found in the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2008, which fails to address the need for practical skills, is somewhat out-dated. Freiberg provides a helpful list of items that the curriculum should also provide, including an understanding of the nature of conflict, skills in negotiation and mediation, subjects that were problem-based as well as doctrine- or theory-based, and an understanding that cases involve real people and therefore have psychological and emotional aspects to them.

Although making changes to the content of classes is a good place to start, it is not enough to remove the preoccupation of unnecessary adversarialism. In their journal article ‘The Law School Matrix: Reforming Legal Education in a Culture of Competition and Conformity Legal’, Sturm and Guinier say that education must move away from what they call a culture of ‘competition and conformity’, arguing that law school culture should be made an integral part of the conversation about law school reform. Their justification of which is that the legal culture will shape a lawyer’s ‘modes of thought, their language, their self image as professionals, their particular professional and organizational history’. It is evident, therefore, that the legal culture law students are nourished in, where they develop into lawyers, has a great effect on the legal profession as a whole. It is also important to recognise, however, that to change the legal culture, one that has been passed down through generations of lawyers and to which most legal professionals are attached, is not to be considered a light task and can only occur over considerable time. This is particularly so since law schools, as relatively conservative institutions, are rather resistant to fundamental change.


 Reforming legal education, although necessary, may have limited effects on the confrontational environment witnessed within a courtroom. A somewhat more drastic reform may look to alter the role of the judge to something more akin to the inquisitorial systems present in most of Europe, what many writers refer to as ‘active, not passive, judges’ (See, eg Freiberg, 2007, 217).

The inquisitorial system is dominated by the preliminary investigation stage where a file or dossier is prepared which is relied upon throughout the case and contains witness statements and all the evidence gathered. It is then the judge who presents the evidence and conducts the trial process whilst the lawyers play the more passive part. In some ways, the roles are the reverse of what is seen in an adversarial system. What this means is that although both systems have the seeking of truth as their aim, the adversarial system attempts to do this by pitting the two parties against each other in the hope that the competition will reveal the truth. This is one of the main reasons why the inquisitorial stem is far less confrontational and appears far less conflict-focused or competitive. Furthermore, because less emphasis is placed on oral evidence there is very little, if any, cross-examination of witnesses in the manner of an adversarial trial and it is the judge who conducts witness questioning. This means that the adverse affects on innocent witnesses, like those I had witnessed myself, are greatly reduced in the inquisitorial system. Moreover, since in the adversarial system it is the parties that choose which evidence to produce, there is no guarantee that they will present everything that is relevant if it has the potential to harm their case. This is, of course, avoided in the inquisitorial system where it is down to the judge to collect evidence and choose what should be presented.

It should be noted, however, that judicial impartiality is considered a major strength of the Australian adversarial system. Malleson described it as, ‘a key principle which is valued not just as a means of ensuring fair and truthful judgements but for its key role in maintaining public confidence in the decisions of the court’. The fact that the judge is independent of and separate from the prosecuting authority ensures that both parties are treated fairly and guarantees impartial treatment without bias. Former Chief Justice Gleeson referred to a judge’s demeanour as giving ‘to the parties an assurance that their case will be heard and determined on the merits, and not according to some personal predisposition on the part of the judge’. This effectively means the system is less prone to abuse and doesn’t promote bias.



Courts in common law jurisdictions such as Australia are a part of criminal justice system based on an adversarial system of law. The system relies on a two-sided structure of opposing sides that present their position on the case before an impartial judge. It is this framework, whereby adversaries are pitted against each other in order to reveal the truth to the judge, which creates an environment of tension and conflict within the courtroom. I had the opportunity to personally witness this confrontational setting in the context of a murder trial, and was critical of what I had observed. This essay therefore analysed the negative aspects of the criminal trial process that I was able to see, focusing mainly on the unnecessary adversarialism emanating from the defence lawyer.

One suggestion is the reform of legal education. This is arguably the best place to start in order to truly remove the negative aspects of the courtroom atmosphere such as conflict and confrontation. It would address the problem from its root by altering the curriculum to include non-adversarial classes but should also look to changing the culture of law school away from one of competition, where ‘winning’ is seen as the ultimate goal. A successful change in the culture of law schools would resonate through to the legal profession and the justice system.

A second proposal, which addresses the issues of adversarialism more directly but that is also a more substantive change to the current adversarial framework, would be to alter the role of the judge to be more like what exists in inquisitorial systems. In the adversarial system, the judge is often described as ‘impartial’. Lawton LJ said, ‘I regard myself as a referee. I can blow my judicial whistle when the ball goes out of play; but when the game restarts, I must neither take part in it nor tell the players how to play’ (Laker Airways Ltd v. Department of Trade [1977]). Such a system is often contrasted to the inquisitorial system where the judge has a key role to play in the investigation and the calling of witnesses. This shifts control of the case from the adversaries to the judge, diminishing the element of conflict between both sides and removing the power of the defence lawyer to create confrontation.

Although I believe there is a need to reform legal education, not only to keep up to date with the forever evolving justice system, but also to better the legal culture, I doubt it would be sufficient to have a substantial impact on the dynamics of the courtroom. For such a change, more direct reform is needed, for instance, the reform of the judicial role. It is, however, recognised that many legal professionals have a certain attachment to adversarialism and so the deep-rooted, entrenched legal culture and long-standing role of the judiciary will not be easy to uproot. Nonetheless, it seems to be the appropriate way forward in order to move away from the current system of conflict and confrontation.


Joana Bourouphael is a third year law student at the University of Warwick and is currently on one-year exchange at Monash University. Her enjoyment for advocacy has lead her to get involved in many mooting competitions, including the national Landmarks Chambers Mooting Competition 2016. She has also been involved in pro bono work with the Warwick Death Penalty Project Group, as well as with the Bar Pro Bono Unit. Additionally, she is set to trek Machu Picchu in aid of the Make-A-Wish in September 2017.

 Twitter handle: @JBourouphael













John Lande discussing Litigation as Violence

John Lande has posted a very thought provoking piece on his blog ‘Indisputably’, discussing a journal article by Professor Vincent Cardi from West Virginia University.   The article is entitled “Litigation as Violence”

Lande in his post brings in many of the themes that preoccupy those of us at the ADR Research network –  the importance of empirical research around litigation and dispute resolution, as well as themes of legal education in dispute resolution, litigant stress, and impact on the wellbeing of the legal profession.

Both the post and the article are well worth reading for legal educators, ADR practitioners and lawyers alike.

ADR in Legal Education

Many of us advocate the inclusion of ADR as a mandatory course in the legal curriculum both in Australia and internationally.


The current crisis in the United States legal education context makes me reflect on the fact that as students ask more of legal educators and their programs it is more important than ever that theory/skills course such as ADR are included in the curriculum.


ADR can prepare students for legal practice but also for careers that are not in the law but in associated areas.  ADR is a course that opens up possibilities.


For a discussion of the crisis in United States legal education see

The current crisis in American legal education