DEAN EDWARDS, BRONWEN EWENS
Volume 1, Issue 3 (Originally Published 12 March 2012)
Having taught, and been educated, on three continents, Gerry (pronounced with a hard G”) Simpson – who teaches Public International Law – is ideally placed to give an insider’s account of law schools globally and what makes Melbourne Law School unique.
Community Engagement and NGOs
“Melbourne law students are very informed and intelligent and they often display a keen social conscience”, says Gerry. “What sets Melbourne Law School apart in my field is the astounding intellectual quality and ambition of my friends and colleagues on Faculty. The students, too, are terrific. I am glad to say, the culture of “networking” and thrusting self-promotion found in some US law schools hasn’t arrived here yet”.
Many Melbourne students are eager to pursue public interest work. Gerry has worked for many NGOs, including Interrights, and UNPO. His advice to prospective public interest lawyers: “Focus narrowly. Think hard about your ideals and goals. Never stop asking what you want and believe in, and keep your actions in line with your beliefs. Most of all, be brave and kind”.
The Melbourne Model
Gerry says there are significant benefits in studying law at the graduate level. “JD students should bear in mind that their undergraduate studies will enrich and inform their learning. Literature, for example, teaches us that life can be viewed from a myriad of perspectives. This contrasts with the law, which can seem imperious”, says Gerry, adding that every law student could benefit from studying the humanities.
Wars, Cars and Values
Gerry has written several books. The most recent, Law, War and Crime , was published in 2008. One book that has had a profound influence on him is Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. “The great ethical and moral dilemmas explored in Arendt’s book are timeless. I find myself returning to it again and again, finding more and more to agree and disagree with.”
Gerry is, however, sceptical about the use of armed intervention as a means of promoting social justice and human rights. He has appeared on the BBC explaining the illegality of the Iraq invasion and questions the motives behind resource wars.
Inspiration and Changing the World
Although hesitant to identify any specific advice that has influenced him, Gerry noted the power of inspiring teachers – in his case, John Rankin, who taught him at the University of Aberdeen and is now the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. He also has drawn inspiration from literature and poetry. His current recommendations for JD students are The Great Gatsby and The Line of Beauty.
He is forthcoming about how we could all play a role in making the world a better place. When asked for a concrete policy prescription he said: “After tripling the mining tax, if I could change one thing in Australia it would be our dependence on cars. I’d tax them at an exorbitant rate and get cars off the streets and children back on to them. The captured revenue would then be used to finance job mobility in the car industry and free public transport for low income earners. After that I’d move on to the global maldistribution of wealth!”
Dean Edwards, Bronwen Ewens