Professor Nick James, Executive Dean of Law, Bond University has kindly given permission for us to post a copy of his recent speech.
It fits very well with our reasons for founding this CLC…
Executive Dean of Law
Law Awards Evening Welcome Address
7 October 2015
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Bond Faculty of Law Awards Night. My name is Professor Nick James, and I am the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law here at Bond University. I would first like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which we are gathered, and pay my respects to elders past and present.
We have come together this evening to celebrate the achievements of our best brightest: those who have excelled academically, those who have participated in our clinics, those who have proudly represented our Faculty in mooting and other competitions. Tonight is a celebration of excellence. If you are here tonight to receive an award for academic performance, participation or representation, you are one of the best this Faculty has to offer. You are exceptional. Well done.
A celebration such as this is an important stage in your journey towards becoming a legal professional. Our goal here at Bond is to not only turn you into a lawyer, but to turn you into a good lawyer. The word ‘good’ of course has more than one possible meaning. One meaning of ‘good lawyer’ is an effective or competent lawyer. And we are certainly good at teaching students how to be good lawyers in that sense of word. Here at Bond we teach law in a way that emphasises its professional relevance and practical application. We have an integrated skills programs where we teach you how to think like a lawyer, how to research the law, how to be an exceptional communicator, how to advocate, how to negotiate, how to mediate, how to collaborate. We pride ourselves on the fact that our graduates, when they enter into professional practice, are, unlike many other graduates, already competent and comfortable with the lawyer’s tools of trade, they have already drafted letters of demand and contracts and plaints, they have already worked with clients, they have already presented a persuasive argument in a crowded courtroom. Yes, if ‘good’ means competent and effective and skilful and work-ready, then we are extremely good at teaching you how to be a good lawyer.
But what about the other possible meaning of good? At Bond we also endeavour to make sure you become an ethical lawyer, an honest lawyer, a kind lawyer, a lawyer who strives to do the right thing and to encourage and motivate others to do the right thing. Of course, we do not, and cannot, force you to be good, and we don’t include ‘being a good person’ in our lists of learning objectives. But we do try to inspire you to be the best person you can be. We teach you about the rule of law and about social justice. We teach you about ethics, how to engage in ethical reasoning, and about the intimate relationship between ethical rules and legal rules. We teach you to consider the social and political consequences of legal decisions and legal actions. We teach you about the importance of working towards the public good, and the potential for the law to make the world a better – a fairer, a gentler, a less violent – place. We encourage you to engage in pro bono legal work through our clinical programs, and to recognise the value of helping others.
We also model good behaviour. We share our own experiences and insights about the value of living a good life. My own experience, for example, is this: ambition and confidence and strategic self-promotion can take you far, but I personally attribute my own career success to working hard, being honest and kind, and trying to be as helpful as possible to those impacted by my behaviour.
All of these efforts on our part are no more than sign-posts. They are there to point you in the right direction … but it is up to you to make that journey. It is your choice; you have to want to be good. You have to choose to listen to what we have to say, and to make that personal effort and personal commitment to being a good lawyer and a good person. You need to decide for yourself what being ‘good’ means, and the personal traits you want to cultivate: honesty, kindness, modesty, generosity, integrity, fairness, or courage.
And why be good? Why make the effort to be good if it isn’t going to be assessed; if it isn’t ‘on the exam’? Well, if you believe in the afterlife, or in karma, being good has direct and positive consequences. More immediately, being good and doing good actually feels better, feels more satisfying than shallow hedonism, or narcissism or acting out of mundane self-interest. Another reason: as lawyers many of us are or become community leaders and role models for others and when we are good we inspire others to be good. And finally: as you no doubt know by now, the law can be used for good or for ill. It can, and often is, used as a mechanism to unfairly maintain the social and political status quo in favour of an elite at the expense of the majority. The law can also be used as a tool to right wrongs, to overcome oppression, to achieve justice. But it is only if lawyers are good that the potential for the law itself to be good can be realised.
So I call upon you, the best and brightest of Bond’s law students, to take a moment to think about how you will use your extraordinary talents. Don’t limit yourself to being a good lawyer. Aspire to be a good lawyer.
Professor Nick James
Bond University | Gold Coast, Queensland, 4229, Australia