Learning to feel like a lawyer: law teachers, sessional teaching and emotional labour in legal education

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary higher education, including legal education, incorporates complexities that were not identified even a decade ago. Law programs first moved from traditional content-focussed programs toward incorporating critique and legal skills. Many are now working toward recognising inclusion and student wellbeing as integral to law graduates’ professional identities and skillsets. Yet the professional dispositions law teachers require to teach in these environments are ostensibly at odds with traditional lawyering identities founded upon an ideal of rationality that actively disengaged from affect. This article draws on our teaching experience and data drawn from the Smart Casual project, which designed self-directed professional development modules for sessional law teachers, to identify the limits of a traditional teaching skillset in the contemporary Australian tertiary law teaching context. We argue that contemporary legal education demands considerable emotional labour and we present sample contexts which highlight the challenges law teachers face in doing what is expected of them. The article makes explicit the emotional labour that has often been implicit or unrecognised in the role of legal academics in general, and in particular, in the role of sessional legal academics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-457
Number of pages28
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017


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