The University of Notre Dame Australia recently appointed Dr Keith Thompson the Associate Dean at its Sydney School of Law.
Dr Thompson worked as the International Legal Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Pacific Area for 18 years. He had the same role in Africa for two years and he was a partner at the New Zealand firm Fortune Manning for six years before working with the Church.
He and his wife Anita have eight children and live in a suburb of Sydney where he serves as a member of the bishopric (i.e. a lay minister) in his Latter-day Saint congregation.
“I loved my 20 years working as International Legal Counsel for the Church in the Pacific and in Africa,” Dr Thompson says, “but have always nourished a wish to finish my legal career by teaching at a law school with sound moral values. Both roles have enabled me to practise law with a sense of calling where remuneration is less important than serving others.”
According to Dr Thompson, the University of Notre Dame’s Sydney School of Law is purposely designed to be different. “It is a teaching law school,” he said. “Though we expect our students to have the academic tools to study law, we actively teach the law in small seminar classes rather than in large lectures supplemented by tutorials.”
“Our seminar classes are interactive and we do not record them so students must attend our seminar classes to learn. To ensure that message is understood, our students are in part marked on their participation in the seminars because we want to produce students who can interact in a court or other advocacy environment.”
He notes that the university’s law degrees are practical in other ways too. All of the teachers have been practising lawyers. Most have been partners in large law firms, which means they are connected with the profession.
“At the University of Notre Dame, we actively work to connect all our students with practising lawyers to mentor them and some of the more excellent students also participate in internship programs which we continue to develop with leading law firms in Sydney,” he said. “That is surely part of the reason why Notre Dame students generally report great success in turning their degrees into work in their chosen field.”
Dr Thompson sees a significant correlation between the values of the University of Notre Dame Australia and the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University with which he has been associated for many years. “Those two law schools, as well as the J. Reuben Clark and St Thomas More law societies, all celebrate the value of studying the laws of man in the light of the laws of God, and the value that religious faith brings to the practice of the law.”
Dr Thompson has been a senior lecturer in constitutional law at Notre Dame since July 2012, and continues to work as a consultant at regional NSW firm, Taylor and Whitty. He has expertise in areas ranging from property and commercial law to criminal and human rights law.