Swinburne University will start to enrol students in a new law course next year, adding to a crowded market for law degrees in Victoria.
Dean of Swinburne Law School Dan Hunter said the university’s undergraduate course would focus on commercial law and would have an emphasis on students gaining practical experience in the field, something he said was lacking at other Victorian law schools.
“Our students will be trained in knowledge economy jobs and might not be going out into legal practice but could do a wide range of different things,” Professor Hunter said. “We want them to have the skills to thrive.”
He said Swinburne’s focus on science, technology and entrepreneurship would feed into the course’s approach, and students would learn about the sorts of legal questions facing technology start-ups such as tax concerns, incorporation and protecting intellectual property.
An oversupply of law graduates has flooded the crowded jobs market in recent years, with an Australian Financial Review analysis of enrolment data this year finding more than 12,000 people graduated from law degrees in 2012 in a field that comprises about 60,000 solicitor jobs.
In 2012, 69 per cent of law graduates were working in the legal field, but across all fields their total employment rate was higher than the average for other graduates.
Education Department figures obtained this year by the AFR show the number of domestic students enrolled in undergraduate law courses in Victoria in 2012 was about 7000, 27 per cent more than 2001’s figure. Student numbers at Victoria University, La Trobe University and Deakin University have doubled over that period.
Seven Victorian universities already offer law courses, but this 7000 figure does not include those enrolled in undergraduate courses at RMIT and Australian Catholic University.
The Swinburne Law School expects to enrol about 100 students.
Professor Hunter said, “We’re delighted to compete in that marketplace.”
“We’ll need to make sure the students are told they won’t necessarily go straight into the profession. They might do a range of other sort of jobs but we will train them for that,” he said.
Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley, a critic of the large number of people graduating from law schools, said Swinburne Law School’s focus could give its students an edge.
“It is an area law schools haven’t particularly focused on but those are areas graduates are expressing interest in – not surprisingly because that is where the economy is going,” he said.