Key concepts

Globalisation

There is no universally accepted definition of globalisation, but it can be described as –

the process whereby actions, circumstances and occurrences in one part of the world may have a major impact on the peoples and institutions of a quite different part of the globe.1

The phenomenon of globalisation has given rise to a new world order economically, politically and socially. Fuelled by rapid advancements in technology and communications, globalisation has seen unparalleled growth in cross-border trade, the free movement of capital and labour, increased immigration, the collapse and rise of political regimes and the transfer of ideas and knowledge at an ever expanding rate.

Globalisation, global legal practice and the global law firm

Globalisation has given impetus to legal activities and services requiring law firms and practitioners, both in private practice and working for government, to work in and across different jurisdictions, and to deal with matters that have a greater international focus and dimension.

This has necessitated a shift from law firms, including many small local law firms, working within the parochial confines of national law and single jurisdictions, to working across multiple jurisdictions and within a much broader international legal context and framework. All this has seen the emergence of the ‘global law firm’.

In Australia, the export of legal services is a major contributor to the Australian economy. The total income from international legal services activity for 2008-2009 was $709.1m; an increase of 5% compared to two years previously.2

Globalisation and higher education

Whilst ‘internationalisation’ has tended to focus on recruiting international students and establishing international partnerships to enhance financial sustainability, there has been a growing awareness of the role and importance of the curriculum in the internationalisation of education.

Higher education institutions wishing to respond to the challenge of globalisation need to incorporate international and intercultural perspectives into the curriculum in a planned and systematic way.3

What is meant by ‘incorporate’ in this context? The educational literature suggests that it should be an integrating process, whereby internationalisation becomes infused or embedded into policies and programs such that it becomes sustainable and not marginal or ad hoc.4

This can also include the establishment of campuses in foreign countries, cross-border partnerships, study-abroad programs, student and staff exchange programs, recruitment of international students or collaborative research projects.  But, most significantly, it means the internationalisation of the curriculum itself – across all aspects of its design, development, delivery and implementation.

Today, every university in Australia now professes the need to transform its curriculum to reflect the goals of internationalisation. This applies across all disciplines, including law.

Globalisation and legal education

For several decades there has been research and scholarly debate on preparing law graduates to work in a globalised world, across multiple jurisdictions and with a much deeper understanding of the increasingly complex international contexts in which law operates.

As the trend moves towards increasing globalised legal services and mobility of people and ideas, facilitated by unprecedented advancements in communications technology, law schools face the challenge of transforming traditional, domestic law curricula into a more internationalised law curriculum.

One writer, Jan Klabbers, has expressed the challenge as ‘in a globalising world, lawyers will need to be educated in such a way as to make it easy to move across jurisdictions, across specialisations, and to move across employment opportunities’.5

The challenge is to develop programs that prepare law graduates for working across borders in a global
context but also continue to prepare them for the vast array of traditional domestic work.

Claudio Grossman advocates for a holistic, integrated and qualitative change to law curricula and
concludes that:

the law school curriculum should embrace the emerging transnational legal order to create a more open and forward looking legal education that truly participates in the wider world with which law graduates will have to engage, to pursue successful legal careers.6

1. David Sugarman & Avrom Sherr, ‘Globalisation and Legal Education’ (2001) International Journal of the Legal Profession 8(1): 5-10.

2. Australian Government. International Legal Services Advisory Council. ILSAC’s Third International Legal and Related Services Statistical Survey 2008-09 FY.

3. Betty Leask, ‘Internationalisation the Buzz Yet Again’ (2011) Campus Review, 10.

4. Jane Knight, ‘Internationalization Remodelled: Definition, Approaches, and Rationales’ (2004) 8 Journal of Studies in International Education 12.

5. Jan Klabbers, ‘Reflections on Globalisation and University Life’ in Jan Klabbers & Mortimer Sellers (eds), The Internationalisation of the Law and Legal Education, (Springer, 2008) 17.

6. Claudio Grossman, ‘Building the World Community through Legal Education’ in Jan Klabbers & Mortimer Sellers (eds), The Internationalisation of the Law and Legal Education, (Springer, 2008) 35.