The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]
Law at Victoria
Law at Victoria
Elsewhere in this number of Spike appears a tribute to the late Professor R. O. McGechan by his and my colleague, Professor I. D. Campbell. He has written of Professor McGechan's personality, his attributes as a teacher, his devotion to the Law Faculty, and his plans for the future development of page 31 Law Teaching at V.U.C When I come to write a brief account of the Law Faculty at V.U.C. during the last five years I find that every development and every success I record is a memorial to our late colleague and to his work and inspiration.
When I returned from the United States in 1949, after a visit made possible only by Professor McGechan's vision and organising ability, I brought with me glowing accounts of the "case method" of teaching law as I had seen it in operation in the great American law schools, especially in Columbia Law School. Professor McGechan had long been dissatisfied with the purely expository method of teaching by lecture and text-book, and he quickly saw the possibilities of the new method as I imperfectly described my first-hand experiences. He encouraged me to the full to try out this method in two subjects in which case-books were already available, and began to make preparations for his own visit to the United States in 1950 and 1951, a visit which was to prove so fruitful in new developments. In the meantime Mr. (now Professor) I. D. Campbell spent the summer and autumn of 1949-1950 on refresher leave in Great Britain and the U.S.A. He was able to compare at first-hand legal education in the two countries, and he, too, returned full of enthusiasm for the lively experimentation in American teaching methods. He began to introduce new methods into his classes. Then came Professor McGechan's own visit to the United States and Canada. He returned more firmly convinced than ever of the essential soundness and value of the "case method" and greatly impressed with the teaching potential of a number of subsidiary methods of work, both intra- and extra-curricular, which had grown up in the great American law schools. He immediately set about adapting the best of these to our peculiar New Zealand conditions. He began the novel and difficult task of collecting cases for the teaching of Administrative Law, in which there is still no one completely satisfactory book for the use of New Zealand students, and at his death the preliminary work for this was two-thirds completed. In addition, he had begun to assemble case materials for the use of students in certain parts of the course in Constitutional Law and the course in Jurisprudence. The valuable pioneer work which he has done in these fields at Victoria College marks a great step forward in teaching method in the Law Faculty, and remains to his successor as a sound basis on which to build further.
This change in teaching method is the first major development of the last five years to record. Not less important for the students, however, is the transformation of Room B 3, with its painful memories of bare floors, imperfect lighting and "austerity" seating', into a comfortable—almost one might say a luxurious—Law Reading Room and lecture room combined, with shelving to accommodate all the Reports and law-books in current use, seating for 50, indirect fluorescent lighting, and a dais suitable for library staff, lecturer and moot court bench.
Towards the end of last year a slim green covered volume made its appearance on the shelves of the Law Library and some half-dozen other libraries in the country. The Victoria University College Law Review, Vol. No.. 1, had achieved publication. In 1952 the first steps were taken, by the appointment of five final-year students, chosen on their records as the best students in the page 32 Faculty, as senior editors, and five students in their last year but one, similarly chosen, as junior editors, to become senior editors the next year. Work was begun on the writing and editing of analytical notes on recent and important decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. A good deal of experimentation was needed, and a good many unexpected difficulties had to be overcome, but in the end the first number of the Review appeared with a leading article by Professor McGechan on the Case Method and eight case-notes by first and second-year editors. It is hoped that two more numbers will appear during this year. The Review has received a good deal of favourable comment and encouragement, and a number of United States (and one Canadian) law schools have offered to exchange their publications with it.
For a number of years the Victoria University College Law Faculty Club has arranged moots during the year, more or less sporadically, in order to give students who wished it an opportunity of practice in legal argument; participation in these was purely voluntary. Last year the experiment was tried of arranging compulsory moots for all students in their last year, and the innovation was so much appreciated that this year, with the assistance of two part-time teachers appointed specially for the purpose and two voluntary student assistants, a moot programme has been organized so that every student taking subjects in Division II must argue at least one moot a year. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. has very kindly offered a prize to the student adjudged the best speaker in the year's moots.
In 1951 Dr. J. Williams, the Professor of English and New Zealand Law, was appointed Principal. Mr. I. D. Campbell succeeded him in the Chair, and after a lapse of two years (during which Professor Campbell was assisted by part-time lecturers and by Mr. J. A. Oldfield, LL.B.), Dr. G. P. Barton, B.A., LL.M, (N.Z.), Ph.D. (Cantab.), a former student of the Faculty who had been awarded a Humanitarian Trust Fund Studentship in International Law at Cambridge, and later had spent two years on the legal staff of the Human Rights Division of the United Nations, was appointed to the vacant Senior Lectureship.
Graduates from the Faculty have gained their share of academic honours during the past few years. Mr. R. B. Cooke was awarded the Law Travelling Scholarship in 1949, and after two years at Clare College, Cambridge was appointed to a Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College for a further two years, Mr. W. S. Shires was awarded the Orford Studentship, tenable at King's College, Cambridge, for 1951. Mr. D. B, Horsley was elected a Rhodes Scholar for 1953, and is now in residence at Brasenose College, Oxford. Mr. J. F. Hogg was awarded a Rotary Fellowship in 1953 and elected to study at the Harvard Law School; word has just reached the Faculty that he has graduated LL.M. at the top of his graduating class.
It would not be fitting to end this brief conspectus without some reference to the overseas visitors the Faculty has enjoyed during the past five years. Chief among them in importance to the Faculty's work was Professor Allison Dunham of the Law School of the University of Chicago, who spent some months in New Zealand during 1952 as a visiting professor under the Fulbright scheme, the bulk of it at Victoria. He gave Faculty and students alike valuable experience in the use of the case method as a teaching tool, charmed everybody page 33 with whom he came into contact, and left behind him a most useful collection of case materials on the law of landlord and tenant. Dean Erwin N. Griswold of Harvard Law School, and Professor Leroy S. Merrifield of the George Washington Law School, honoured us with shorter visits. We were also privileged to entertain Lord Wright, sometime a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, during his brief stay in Wellington, and to hear him address students and staff; and more recently had a brief visit from Dr. Frances Moran, Regius Professor of Law at Trinity College, Dublin.
The students and staff of the Faculty find a common extra-curricular meeting place in the activities of the Law Faculty Club. In addition to its regular functions, the Law Ball and the Law Dinner, long since become traditional, the club has since 1952 abandoned its infrequent meetings on serious topics in favour of a series of club luncheons during the year, at which in different food and excellent speakers balance one another and make the principal attraction the ready camaraderie not always possible in lecture rooms and classes, and the evening functions have been confined to infrequent, but uniformly enjoyable Stein evenings.
E. K. Braybrooke