There’s no disputing this building at 17 Wally’s Walk makes a statement – with its beautiful craftsmanship, impressive timber beams and circular features.

In this post we cross-examine Dr Andrew Burke, Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of Education, Macquarie Law School, to determine the impact that these new facilities will have on learning and teaching in law.

Q How will the new building enhance student and staff connections?

Until now, law students lacked any dedicated spaces where they could meet, congregate or study. Now they’ll have exclusive access to study spaces, a reading room, lounges, and their own student kitchen.

We anticipate that 95 per cent of all law classes will be held in the 17WW teaching spaces so students really don’t need to leave the building (except to grab a coffee).

1st Year Law Students were welcomed into the building on their first day.

Online tutorials, introduced during COVID, are being phased out of the Bachelor of Laws (due to accreditation factors) and students commencing from 2024 onwards will only have face-to-face tutorials – meaning that all law students will be coming and going from this building.

Our Law School staff all have offices here too – so we are conveniently working in the same space where the teaching happens, right amongst the students. You can walk through the building to your office and students can see you. This will encourage more staff/student interaction.

It’s a point of difference for Macquarie Law that we have teaching, academic offices and student spaces all in the one building.

Q What aspect of the building are you most excited about?

The Moot Court (mock court room) is a game-changer. It’s a custom designed space that replicates a real courtroom, with tiered seating and a judges’ bench, where students can take part in simulated court proceedings and practice their professional skills. This is called ‘mooting’. Previously we had to make do with a flat room and some movable chairs.

Surprise feature: There is a secret/hidden door for the judge to enter the court. They knock on the door and then ‘all rise’ as they enter.

Q What types of teaching spaces have been incorporated into the building?

There are 6 flexible active learning spaces/tutorial rooms and 2 lecture theatres. Every hour there will be at least 180 students coming in, and 180 students leaving the building. We’ll still need to use bigger lecture theatres, such as Macquarie Theatre, for large 1st year classes.

Q What facilities are provided for law students?

I think students will love the reading room – it’s a quiet space that only enrolled students can access (using a swipe card). It has an honour board listing all of the Law School’s University Medal winners over the years – finally we have somewhere to display this!

The Law commons area is a student study and hang out space – with both individual pods and spaces for group work.

Wallumatta Legal, a low-bono law family law firm, is also located in the building. Some law students are able to intern there which is a wonderful opportunity.

Postgraduate law students come and go at different hours, so they have their own lounge area.

Leaders of the Student Law Society (possibly the largest student society on campus) have dedicated office space. These students are vital in building a connected community. Some are in formal roles, elected annually, while others can be committee members. They organise mooting events, sporting competitions, careers events (about 30 per year) and the annual law society ball. They’ll appreciate having spaces to meet and plan.

A permanently staffed concierge desk will help direct and support students and visitors to the building.

Q Any special features for staff?

We have our own recording studio (with a ‘green screen’) for creating pre-recorded lectures and videos, enabling the production of high-quality learning materials, with better audio. There’s a conference room with adjoining outdoor terrace that’s available to be booked by anyone (not for students though).

Q How will the MOOT Court transform student learning and career development?

Mooting (the practice of participating in simulated court proceedings) is a common activity across law schools worldwide and is critical in developing courtroom and professional skills for law students. This new facility allows students to practice in an authentic setting. It’s actually a competition and students at any level can participate – there is a Foundation Moot for 1st year students – and then students participate in more complex moots in subsequent years where the questions and scenarios become more complex. Students can also form teams to compete in intervarsity competitions. Students from MQ Law School were recently crowned national moot court champions.

Mooting builds connections between students which leads to the formation of professional connections. Mooting is organised by MULS, the law student society – they write the questions or hypothetical scenarios and find volunteer judges.

The technology available in the Moot Court (including cameras on the ceiling) allows us to have a judge on Zoom while the competition is happening in person. This is especially important as there are often volunteer judges who are unable to attend on campus due to time constraints and it also opens up the opportunity to have guest judges who are outside of Sydney.

Having the tiered gallery in the Moot Court allows new students to go along, sit in the gallery and observe first-hand what happens in a moot before they start participating themselves. This was not possible before.

Q Circular shapes seem to be a trademark of the building. Why is that?

You’ll notice the front entrance to the building has a circular portico – this is actually the Moot Court from the floor above.

The circular theme has been continued through the building with a spectacular spiral staircase, round planter boxes and circular shaped seating.

Q You’ve created a new unit based on mooting. What is the intention here?

A new unit, LAWS5030 Law Moots and Competitions, will be offered from Session 3 this year and we are hoping to have 50-100 students initially.

It’s supporting our objective of building a culture of mooting and providing more resources and support for mooting. Ideally, we’d like students to engage in mooting from 1st year. We encourage students to maintain a logbook of any moots they participate in and record their reflections. Later, this can be used for entry into the new unit and for submission as an assessment task.

I’m excited to see how the students react to the new moot room, the building and student spaces but it will probably take a session to work out to use everything effectively. We’re hoping for a stronger sense of community – with students not only connecting to each other, but to staff too. Enrolment numbers for the Bachelor of Law this year are strong – I think word of the new law building has spread!

Observe teaching in action – and sit in on a Law class in the new building

Harry Melkonian is opening up the LAWS8097 Media Law and Culture 1-hour tutorial class to allow others to observe as part of the Open for Observation program. Find class dates and times and register here to attend. Limited places available.

Thanks to Andrew Burke for the information provided for this post.
Image of students: Chris Barlow – Visual Assets Manager, Group Marketing.
All other photos: Kylie Coaldrake

Posted by Kylie Coaldrake

Learning and Teaching Development Coordinator, Office of PVC (Education)

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