Practical legal training has traditionally been the poor relation of the legal education family. Along with the similarly placed clinical legal education, it is a latecomer to formal legal education and its academic value is regarded with some reservation by those involved in more mainstream areas of academia. These reservations are not entirely unfounded. While few could deny the value of practical legal training in terms of teaching and contribution to the legal community, it is in the contribution to research and scholarship that practical legal training may be seen to be less successful. Few academics who teach in practical legal training go on to conduct research into it, external funding opportunities in this area are quite limited and such research as is conducted is not perceived to have a high academic value. This paper draws on a research project conducted by the writers to explore the climate influencing research in practical legal training and the standards by which its research successes are measured. The paper relies on interview data obtained from PLT academics to ascertain obstacles to research in PLT and to postulate how positive outcomes for valuing practical legal training research might be achieved.
This paper was originally published as: Maxwell, K & Pastellas, J, Valuing practice: The place of practical legal research in academic life, AARE International Educational Research Conference, Melbourne, 28 November-2 December 2004, 1-13.