Home -Longitudinal - School of Law - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Longitudinal Study: Developing a Law Student Profile

A project of the Socio-Legal Studies Research Group


Project Overview

The aim of the project is to inform the development of a student profile which ensures that teaching and learning occurring during law degrees produces graduates who have the skills and knowledge for the careers they wish to pursue. The reciprocal aim is to produce law graduates who are work-ready for employers, whether in legal practice, or in government, the private sector or NGO positions. The project is funded by AKO Aotearoa Southern Regional Hub Project funding.

Phase One:

In 2014 first year law students at UC (and also at the University of Auckland and University of Waikato) were surveyed at the beginning and end of year. These surveys provided demographic data as well as information on student wellbeing, reasons for studying law. It also asked students which skills students felt were important for their future careers, and which skills students felt they would be taught throughout their law degree.


Phase Two:

In 2015 the third capture of data occurred, with the same cohort of students being surveyed again, to see how their answers changed as they progress through the law degree. A pilot survey of employers was conducted in order to understand which skills they feel are important for employability of law students. A full employer survey will be carried out in 2016.

Phase Three:

In 2016 the fourth survey of students will occur. A key emphasis of the 2016 survey will be on student well-being and asessment.

What have we learnt so far?

The surveys conducted so far have provided some very interesting insights. The full reports of the first and second phases are now available, but here are some interesting results from the 2015 survey:

  • Three quarters of the students were interested in pursuing a legal career
  • The subject areas which second year students were most interested in were criminal justice, human rights, international and company/commercial.
  • Just under three quarters of these students reported attending between 81 and 100 percent of all lectures.
  • Over half of them reported “multi-tasking” during lectures (i.e. using electronic devices for reasons unconnected to the lecture).
  • Students described their “ideal law lecturer” as one who was engaging, interesting, enthusiastic and concise.
  • “Assessment” was the most frequently given answer to questions asking what had gone well for students in 2015 and what had not.
  • The most frequently reported level of student debt was $10,001-$20,000.
  • Reported levels of likely psychological distress were higher than those reported in the general New Zealand population.

Project goals

  1. To provide information which will result in developers of student profiles having available to them a set of data that reflects the wishes and desires of law students, law graduates and law graduate employers (whether law firms, government departments, businesses or community organisations).
  2. To subsequently use this information to inform curriculum design and teaching experience

Research Team

    'Project Leaders Ursula Cheer and Lynne Taylor'

    Project Leaders: Professor Ursula Cheer and Lynne Taylor