The Revolutionary Potential of Law School


  • Ben Wardle USC


This paper highlights the experiences at law school that transformed a self-interested, consumerist with dreams of becoming a corporate lawyer into a critical legal theorist concerned with social justice, sustainability, and Indigenous sovereignty. While the paper tells the story of one person’s experiences at law school it arguably highlights some key barriers to critical thought and an array of teaching methods and course content within single law courses and across the law program that can bring about radical shifts in consciousness.

Author Biography

Ben Wardle, USC

Ben is a lecturer in law at USC.


A Articles/Books/Reports

Abel, Richard, American Lawyers (Oxford University Press, 1991)

Anderson, Sarah and John Cavanagh, Executive Excess (Institute for Policy Studies, 2006)

Appleby, Gabrielle, Peter Burdon and Alexander Reilly, 'Critical Thinking in Legal Education: Our Journey' (2013) 23 Legal Education Review 345

Ardill, Allan, ‘Critique in Legal Education: Another Journey’ (2016) 26(1) Legal Education Review 137

Ardill, Allan and Ben Wardle, ‘Firebombs and Ferguson: A Review of Hate Crime Laws as applied to Child Sex Offenders’ (2009) 34(4) Alternative Law Journal 257

Aulby, Hannah and Mark Ogge, Greasing the Wheel: The Systemic Weaknesses that allow Undue Influence by Mining Companies on Government (The Australia Institute, 2016)

Brookfield, Stephen, Discussion as a Way of Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2005)

Burton, Kelley and Judith McNamara, ‘Assessing Reflection Skills in Law Using Criterion-referenced Assessment’ (2009) 19 Legal Education Review 171

Delgado, Richard, Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Richard Delgardo (ed) (Temple University Press, 1995).

Fitzsimmons, Dominic, Simon Kozlina and Prue Vines, ‘Optimising the First Year Experience in Law: The Law Peer Tutor Program at the University of New South Wales’ (2006) 16 Legal Education Review 100

Gray, Stephen, ‘Holding the Government to Account: The “Stolen Wages” Issue, Fiduciary Duty and Trust Law’ (2008) 32(1) Melbourne University Law Review 115

Host, John and Jill Milroy, ‘Towards an Aboriginal Labour History’ (2001) 22 Studies in Western Australian History 3

James, Nickolas, 'The Marginalisation of Radical Discourses in Australian Legal Education' (2006) 16 Legal Education Review 55

James, Nickolas, ‘Why Has Vocationalism Propagated So Successfully within Australian Law Schools?’ (2004) 6 University of Notre Dame Australia Law Review 41

Kennedy, Duncan, ‘Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy’ (1982) 32(4) Journal of Legal Education 591

Kraus, Michael, Jun Won Park and Jacinth Tan, ‘Signs of Social Class: The Experience of Economic Inequality in Everyday Life’ (2017) 12(3) Perspectives on Psychological Science 422.

Krien, Anna, ‘The Long Goodbye: Coal, Coral and Australia’s Climate Deadlock’ (2017) 66 Quarterly Essay 1

Law Council of Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, (Justice Report, 2018)

Liddy, Matt, Ben Spraggon and Nathan Hoad, ‘CEOs now earn 78 times more than Aussie Workers,’ ABC News (online, 6 December 2017) <>

Mack, Kathy et al, ‘Developing Student Self-Reflection Skills through Interviewing and Negotiation Exercises in Legal Education’ (2002) 13 Legal Education Review 221

Marx, Karl, Capital (, 2002)

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (, 2000)

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto and Its Relevance For Today (Resistance Books, 1998)

McGlone, Frances, ‘Student Peer Mentors: A Teaching and Learning Strategy Designed to Promote Cooperative Approaches to Learning and the Development of Lifelong Learning Skills' (1996) 12 Queensland University of Technology Law Journal 201

Merritt, Chris, ‘It’s unanimous: Kirby still the great dissenter’ The Australian (online, 15 February 2007) <>

Reilly, Alexander, ‘From past to present’ (2001) 26(3) Alternative Law Journal 143

Reynolds, Henry, Why Weren’t We Told? (Penguin Books, 2000)

Rushe, Dominic, ‘US bosses now earn 312 times the average worker’s wage, figures show’, The Guardian (online, 16 August 2018) <>

Seidel, Peter, ‘Native Title: The struggle for justice for the Yorta Yorta Nation’ (2004) 29(2) Alternative Law Journal 70

Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Parliament of Australia, Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages (7 December 2006)

Smallbone, Stephen and Richard Wortley, Child sexual abuse in Queensland: Offender Characteristics and Modus Operandi (Australian Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice & Governance, 2000)

Thomas, Alice, 'Laying the Foundation for Better Student Learning in the Twenty-First Century: Incorporating an Integrated Theory of Legal Education into Doctrinal Pedagogy' (2000) 6 Widener Law Review 49

Thornton, Margaret, Privatising the Public University: The Case of Law (Routledge, 2012)

Thornton, Margaret, ‘The Law School, the Market and the New Knowledge Economy’ (2008) 17 Legal Education Review 1

Wardle, Ben, The Four Axes of Legal Ideology (PhD thesis, Griffith University, 2016)

Wardle, Ben, ‘You Complete Me: The Lacanian Subject and Three Forms of Ideological Fantasy’ (2016) 21(3) Journal of Political Ideologies 302

Zizek, Slavoj, How to Read Lacan (Grata Books, 2006)

Zizek, Slavoj, The Plague of Fantasies (Verso, 1997)

Zizek, Slavoj, The Sublime Object of Ideology (Verso, 2002)

B Cases

Mabo v Queensland (1992) 175 CLR 1

R v Ferguson [2008] QDC 136

Wadderwarri [1958] NTSC 516

Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria (2002) 214 CLR 422

C Legislation

Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (Qld)

E Other

‘Media Hunt a Monster’, Media Watch (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008)

Stephen Smallbone (Ben Wardle, Interview at Griffith University, 2008)