Students at a top New Zealand law school have been told of a radical shake-up that will see them be rewarded for doing hundreds of hours of pro bono work.

The country's youngest dean of law, Dr Chris Gallavin yesterday issued his University of Canterbury students with a 'roadmap' with his vision of the law school's direction in the next 18 months.

He wants more community engagement, based on the Ivy League models, especially the famed Harvard Law School where students are encouraged to "challenge and work on the big issues facing their communities, their country and our world".

"I am determined to ensure that we are not just a degree machine. We are here to make a difference," Dr Gallavin said.


He accepts that while some current students may disagree with his vision, he's happy to help them find a university which will better suit them.

The earthquakes have provided the Canterbury region with an exciting opportunity for young people to be at the forefront of business, science, and innovation, he said.

Students who get out and work in their community can use their unique skills - dexterity, flexibility, an ability to deal with adversity, uncertainty, stress, change and transition - to make a difference, he said.

His 'strategic objectives' manifesto also reveals that up to four new lecturing staff positions will be made, including what he calls a first for New Zealand - a director of clinical legal studies.

The new clinical legal programme will give students an opportunity to work on "real issues and real cases" for credit.

Students will be required to do at least 100 hours of pro bono or paid work as a graduating requirement for a law degree.

To formally recognise the service of students, an honour list at graduation - based on the Harvard model - will include students in two tiers: those who do more than 400 hours of pro bono work, and those who do more than 750 hours of pro bono work.

Awards will also be given out for pro bono service, 'justice, human dignity and compassion', student citizenship, and community leadership.


Dr Gallavin tells his students: "The Education Act says that universities are the conscience and critic of society - well, you are part of this university too, so that calling includes you and not just the academics."