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Traineeships system set for first-class take off

News

Cite as: (2007) 81(12) LIJ, p. 26


Entry-level lawyers are guaranteed a higher standard of education under the new traineeships system to replace articles in July 2008.

Hours spent photocopying or undertaking long periods of discovery will be a thing of the past for new lawyers, when traineeships replace articled clerkships next year.

Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) CEO Mike Brett Young said all lawyers who commenced the program from 1 July 2008 would receive a first-class introduction to law.

He said law firms should not fear the Victorian government’s sweeping changes to pre-admission legal training.

“This is not as onerous as it looks at first instance because a lot of this training can be carried out as part of the day-to-day communication between a principal and a trainee,” he said.

Trainees must complete a year’s traineeship with a legal firm and the new Competency Standards for Entry-level Lawyers (the Standards).

The Standards include eight compulsory education components and two elective components.

While most of the components can be carried out in the trainee’s workplace, two compulsory components – lawyers’ skills, and ethics and professional responsibility – must be completed externally with an accredited practical legal training provider.

“I believe traineeships will provide many advantages to the profession,” Mr Brett Young said.

“Traineeships will ensure that all of our future lawyers reach high standards, rather than it just being the luck of the draw whether articled clerks have a positive experience.”

Mr Brett Young said law firms must understand the changes before engaging trainees next year.

The Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2007 (the Rules) will govern the traineeship system.

At the time of printing the Rules were due for public consultation before being approved by the state government.

However, the LIV believed the draft Rules outlined in this article were unlikely to change and practitioners should act on this information.

The Rules were drafted after former Monash University Professor Susan Campbell made 47 recommendations in a Review of Legal Education report last year.

The report led to changes in continuing professional development (CPD) for lawyers in April this year. Four compulsory CPD fields were introduced: ethics and professional responsibility; professional skills; substantive law; and practice management and business skills.

The Campbell report’s second round of changes to legal education recommended Victoria should adopt a Queensland-based traineeship model for entry-level lawyers to replace articles of clerkship.

The model, introduced in Queensland in 2005, would bring Victoria in line with all other states which already offer prescribed training requirements.

Under the old articled clerk system, a principal would oversee the clerk’s pre-admission year and tasks and education would be set solely by the firm.

“These changes will mean we really have a much better guarantee of what qualifications they get out of their training,” Ms Campbell said.

“The benefits are principally for the community as a whole and new entrants to the profession. We can ensure that everybody admitted to practice will have the same broad training across all the major areas of law.”

Ms Campbell said bringing Victoria in line with other states would also help Victorian lawyers work across borders.

LIV Young Lawyers’ Section manager Donna Adams said young lawyers would benefit from having a standardised articles experience.

“Employers will know what level of experience the trainees have. The traineeship program will be particularly important for young lawyers who want to work across borders, because the qualifications will be well recognised across Australia,” she said.

The eight compulsory Standards are lawyers’ skills, problem solving, work management and business skills, trust and office accounting, civil litigation practice, commercial and corporate practice, property law practice and ethics and professional responsibility.

In addition, trainees must select two elective components – one from administrative law, criminal law and family law; and one from consumer law, employment and industrial relations, planning and environment, and wills and estates.

The Rules allow for the training to be completed in two timeframes:

  • 12 months of closely supervised workplace training in accordance with the Rules, which incorporates at least 90 hours of programmed training; or
  • a practical legal training course approved under the Rules, including 450 hours of programmed training and 90 hours of workplace experience.

The LIV will work with the College of Law Victoria to offer courses in the two external training areas – lawyers’ skills, and ethics and professional responsibility.

LIV Professional Development manager Julie McCormack said trainees could attend a number of already existing CPD activities in the two fields.

She said combining inhouse and external education would give trainees a broader learning experience and a greater opportunity to network.

College of Law Victoria CEO Anita Kwong predicted the demand for College of Law training would increase with the education changes.

“The changing landscape of pre-admission training provides an opportunity for legal firms and organisations to review the way they train graduates,” she said.

Ms Kwong said trainees could also complete their pre-admission training through the College of Law Victoria Professional Program Online.

“The training is modular, can be undertaken full-time or part-time, has multiple start dates throughout the year and can be completed within 30 weeks or less in some circumstances,” she said.

Leo Cussen Institute and Monash University also offer practical legal training that will help firms implement the traineeship requirements.

Each of the 10 components outlined in the Rules consists of between three and eight sections of various performance criteria that must be met.

Each component has a “descriptor” outlining what tasks the trainee should be capable of on completion.

In administrative law for example: “An entry-level lawyer who practises in administrative law should be able to obtain information for clients under freedom of information legislation, seek review of administrative decisions, and represent parties before courts and administrative tribunals”.

Mr Brett Young said the new system might require a legal principal to provide a small amount of additional training to what was necessary for articled clerks. “But this will achieve a better qualified lawyer,” he said.

He said the program would incur minimal cost for law firms, because the majority of the training could be offered inhouse.

Legal Services Board grants will be available to assist country and suburban solicitors to attend city-based courses to meet their traineeship requirements, he said.

“For country firms there will also be a right to transfer the trainee to another firm for a short period to complete certain components,” Mr Brett Young said.

“For example, if you were in a firm that did conveyancing but not litigation, the trainee could go to a firm that did litigation for some components of the training.”

Mr Brett Young said the introduction of the program next July would allow a small number of trainees who enter law before 31 December 2008 to test the model.

The LIV will release traineeship guidelines to law firms, including the training criteria and information on how to roll out the model.

LIV president-elect Tony Burke said the option to outsource sections of the training would help smaller firms meet their training requirements.

“The changes should be embraced by practitioners as a way of having structured learning provided by experts so that new lawyers are well equipped to tackle law in the 21st century,” he said.

The Standards were jointly developed by the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council and the Law Admissions Consultative Committee.

The implementation and regulation of the program will be managed by the state government’s Council of Legal Education.

For regular LIV updates on how the new traineeships system will work and assistance with implementation, see http://www.careers.liv.asn.au/traineeship2008.

HARRIET MORLEY

What you need to know

Trainees must complete a year’s traineeship with a legal firm and the Competency Standards for Entry-level Lawyers, which includes eight compulsory education components and two elective components.

The majority of the Competency Standards can be carried out either in the trainee’s workplace, externally with an accredited practical legal training provider or through a mixture of both.

Compulsory

Skills
Lawyers’ skills
Problem solving
Work management and business skills
Trust and office accounting

Practice areas
Civil litigation practice
Commercial and corporate practice
Property law practice

Values
Ethics and professional responsibility

Electives

Choose one from:
Administrative law and practice
Criminal law practice
Family law practice

Choose one from:
Consumer law practice
Employment and industrial relations practice
Planning and environmental law practice
Wills and estates practice


Note: At the time of printing, the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2007 were not finalised. However, the LIV believes the information in this table is unlikely to change.

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