Increasing the number of second year law students at Auckland University Law School will give more very good students the opportunity to study law at Auckland, Law School Dean Andrew Stockley says.
Auckland Law School has increased the number of students admitted into second year law this year by 50, to 380 students. Up to 1500 students enrol in the first year of a law degree at Auckland University, and up to 330 have been admitted to second year law for the past 10 years.
Interviewed in the March issue of the New Zealand Law Society magazine LawTalk, Professor Stockley says only accepting 330 of 1500 first year law students into second year has meant that it is much more difficult for high-achieving school leavers to study law at Auckland than at any other New Zealand law school.
"There is evidence from school leaver reports that some very good students have to leave the region to enhance their chances of getting into law school," he says.
"This has an impact on equity of access. Mobile school-leavers tend to be more affluent and this impacts disproportionately on Māori and Pacific students."
Other New Zealand law schools have been expanding while Auckland has remained static, he says. Even if Auckland Law School took 500 second year students, it would still be taking a lower proportion of its first year students into second year law than all other New Zealand law schools.
Professor Stockley says the University is giving the Law School the resources to appoint more student advisers and more academic staff. He says the Law School is uniquely placed among the New Zealand law schools to achieve the scale and impact of the very best Australian law schools.
"We are the only New Zealand law school ranked among the top 50 law schools in the world. But we have significantly fewer academic staff than the top Australian law schools."
Asked if there will be enough jobs for more law students, he says Auckland Law School graduates do extremely well as lawyers in New Zealand and overseas and become leaders in government, business and a wide variety of other sectors.
"I have no doubt that this will continue. Entry to second year law will still be the most competitive in the country," he says.
"The increase in student numbers will give us the staff and resources to establish a much more substantial careers mentoring programme, as occurs in many North American law schools. This is already needed and the increase in student numbers will give us the staff and resources to make it happen."
Professor Stockley says it is a "fallacy" to believe that the number of graduates from a professional school should be determined by the number of current vacancies in that profession.
"This is so particularly for law where graduates have many other options available to them."