Creation and Use of Graduate Attributes at The College of Law

Studying for a postgraduate qualification at The College of Law is not just about acquiring knowledge and skills for use in practice.

The College designs its courses and delivers them in a way that promotes the acquisition of qualities and styles which distinguish our graduates from those of other law schools and helps make our graduates attractive to employers and to clients.

Most fundamentally we are an Applied Law institution so the three qualities we try to encourage in our graduates are:

  • Professional (who we are)
  • Effective (how we work)
  • Practical (what we achieve)

The three qualities can then be broken down into a small number of descriptors which elaborate on the qualities and provide a link from the qualities to the generation of Learning Outcomes in course design.

Graduate Attributes
Graduate Qualities Graduate Descriptors
Professional

(Who we are)

Ethical
Knowledgeable
Well-presented
Prepared
Effective

(How we work)

Client-centred
Clear
Responsive
Collaborative
Practical

(What we achieve)

Strategic
Commercially aware
Solution Focused
Systematic

Accordingly, when we design courses we are mindful of the various descriptors which influence not so much the substance as the style and focus of the knowledge and skills being taught. In this way, a student learns requisite knowledge and skills for legal practice while simultaneously becoming more Professional, Effective and Practical – qualities much prized by employers, peers and the clients who use legal services.

We also use the Graduate Attributes as the basis of our Graduate Outcome Survey and Employer Stakeholder Survey in order to ascertain from the experience of graduates, and those who employ them, the extent to which we are truly delivering on the promise of producing Graduates with the qualities we espouse. The results of those surveys are then used to redress any shortcomings in order to do an even better job in future.

In this way we hope to produce graduates of PLT, Applied Law and even in our CPD programs who can be recognised as being Professional, Effective, Practical, and ultimately employable.

How We Use Graduate Attributes in Course Design

Every subject in every course is created by determining Learning Outcomes – the essential knowledge and skills we want students to master in that subject. It is the Learning Outcomes that are the focus of all learning materials and activities, and it is the Learning Outcomes that drive all assessment.

Accordingly, when we create Learning Outcomes, we also consider how those might be integrated with the various Graduate Descriptors in order to provide guidance to course writers who generate the course materials, assessment and delivery style. The student learns the knowledge and skills in a way that emphasises and encourages the additional qualities the College regards as critical to successful legal practice.

So what are those additional qualities?

Graduate Descriptors in Detail

Ethical

We are not so naïve as to believe we can teach all graduates to be ethical in practice, but we can ensure that all graduates are aware of their ethical duties in practice.

The College does not believe in teaching ethics in a vacuum; ie, by limiting legal ethics to one subject and leaving it there. Ethical issues arise in practice all the time in any context so that is the way we teach ethics – integrated throughout the PLT Program and also the Applied Law Programs wherever relevant.

Knowledgeable

Clearly there are packets of knowledge and numerous legal skills a lawyer needs – whether as a new graduate or as an experienced professional looking to specialise. You can never know or do all of it, but you can at least know what is most important and how to find what else you might need.

You will also be exposed to knowledgeable lecturers and mentors. The College selects its lecturers solely from the practising profession – scholarly practitioners who have a passion for the law and a vocation for teaching. PLT students will learn to avoid traps for new players and Applied Law students will get access to thinking at senior ranks of the profession.

All students will enjoy excellent networking opportunities and access to the wider fields of knowledge those professional networks embody.

Well-presented

We cannot teach you how to dress, but we can teach you to present an argument – whether in writing or in person, and to maximise your prospects for a successful outcome by going about it in a professional and methodical manner.

Employers and clients are impressed by lawyers who can get quickly to the heart of the matter and spell out the issues confidently and clearly.

Clothes maketh the man, but good presentation maketh the lawyer.

Prepared

Hand in hand with ‘well-presented’ is ‘prepared’. The more prepared you are, the better you will present.

The College makes much use of oral or performance based assessment, which may involve the preparation of files or other documents and you must be on top of your documents if you are going to present well on the day.

This in turn is preparation for legal practice – whether on the ground floor or the penthouse of the profession. Good preparation is a habit you will have to learn to get through a College course.

Client-centred

Legal practice is a proud and ancient profession, but in the modern world it is a profession which must operate in a competitive, commercial environment.

The only way to survive (or be employed) in such an environment is to be highly attuned to the needs of clients. Clients pay the bills, ultimately, and they will only do that while they believe you to be entirely on their side and working towards their success.

Wherever appropriate The College takes a problem based approach both to learning and assessment, putting the client at the centre.

Clear

Linked with both ‘well-presented’ and ‘client-centred’, ‘clear’ is about presenting oral and written arguments and options to a client or other lawyers (including judges) in a way that is direct and unambiguous.

The practice of law is more often a dialogue than a soliloquy, so it is up to every lawyer to communicate clearly in order to ensure the dialogue proceeds in an orderly fashion rather than getting mired in costly and wasteful confusion.

Clarity breeds confidence and facilitates completion and conclusion.

Responsive

Lawyers are engaged for their expertise and their time. Time is important but so is the time of clients and other professionals and they will appreciate you respecting their time by always responding to their needs in an appropriate manner.

Being responsive is also about substance. There is no point responding quickly with nothing – a response needs to be both timely and substantial, or at the very least foreshadow when a substantial response can be expected.

Learning to manage and balance the priorities of numerous clients is a matter of professional judgment which the College will help you to learn as you respond to the needs of lecturers and fellow students.

Collaborative

Understanding how to get the best results for clients will often involve advice or input from other professionals, both legal and non-legal.

A collaborative approach is also conducive to ‘buy in’ to your proposed solutions from clients and other parties.

At the College you will employ negotiation skills in a range of contexts while simultaneously applying technical legal knowledge and other legal skills.

Strategic

Being strategic is a way of thinking which imbues your entire professional approach with a goals-oriented focus and helps to identify and prioritise the best outcomes bearing in mind both legal and non-legal issues.

Your strategy will help you get the best value out of your time and effort and will make clear in your mind what the goal ought to be and how best to get there.

Commercially aware

The practice of law is a profession but that profession exists within the real world and lawyers wanting to run successful practices will be commercially aware irrespective of the type of legal work they are doing.

If you have commercial clients you will be commercially aware or you will not be able to perform as they need you to. Even if you do not have commercial clients you will still need to be aware of the commercial world and the way it impacts on your non-commercial clients and your own practice.

Commercial reality is a perspective that features regularly in our programs.

Solution focused

Linked with ‘client-centred’ and ‘strategic’, being ‘solution focused’ means you are focused on resolving issues in an optimal way rather than sticking doggedly to the orthodox legal solutions and the paths those will lead you down.

This does not mean a too-quick willingness to compromise but rather a lateral-minded flexibility which seeks to get the best result for your client at the earliest possible stage.

College courses tend to emphasise negotiation and mediation as well as the standard legal routes, which saves time and money, and fosters happy clients.

Systematic

Working in accordance with a system means working efficiently and effectively and avoiding getting side-tracked by tasks or questions not relevant to the pursuit of your goals.

The basic principle underlying all College courses is a methodical, step-by-step approach to all aspects of legal practice – whether as a graduate lawyer or as a specialist. There is always a system and getting through a College course will help you to establish your own best systems for achieving your goals.