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New training regime on track

News

Cite as: (2008) 82(6) LIJ, p. 26

New admission rules pave the way for a changed training system for law graduates.

After years of debate, discussion and review, the new training system for law graduates comes into effect on 1 July, officially marking the demise of traditional articled clerkships in Victoria.

Under the new Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2008, made by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) on 11 March, articles of clerkship will be replaced by supervised workplace training.

Alternatively, graduates can gain admission to practice by completing a practical legal training (PLT) course.

Those who are already doing articles will be able to complete them and obtain admission to practice.

LIV CEO Mike Brett Young said the new system would result in an overall improvement in the quality of training for law graduates.

He hoped law firms would embrace the new rules, saying most firms would be able to implement supervised workplace training inhouse.

“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,” Mr Brett Young said.

College of Law Victoria, a joint venture between The College of Law and the LIV, and Leo Cussen Institute are both gearing up for an influx of students.

College of Law Victoria CEO Anita Kwong said Freehills and Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR) would have graduates trained at the college from next year rather than conducting the training requirements inhouse.

“With the supervised workplace training options, there are requirements of training plans, supervision and so forth,” she said.

“From our perspective, it makes a lot of sense [for firms] to outsource the burden of that administration for a small cost and have comprehensive training across the board from a specialist provider.”

Ms Kwong said the 30-week, part-time College of Law course represented a good investment for law firms as it was comprehensive and the graduates could “hit the ground running” after it was completed.

Leo Cussen executive director Elizabeth Loftus said some firms were considering PLT as an option – hiring direct from PLT or on the basis that a graduate completed a PLT.

“If the experience of Queensland is any guide, there will be a significant increase in students seeking PLT places,” she said.

Freehills legal learning and development manager Murray Paterson said Freehills had a large inhouse training program but had opted to outsource the admissions training to obtain consistency across trainees throughout Australia.

Freehills already used the College of Law in NSW, and about 40 Freehills trainees would start at College of Law Victoria early next year.

“Being a national firm, it is a good opportunity for us to have a consistent program,” he said.

Freehills’ inhouse two-year training program would continue, but would be more targeted to focus on the skills required by the firm, rather than on general skills, he said.

AAR head of learning and development Catherine Shepherd said her firm had also used the College of Law in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, and that joining in Victoria offered consistent training to the firm’s 125-plus graduate intake.

“The online coursework enables graduates to balance their work and study commitments, supplemented with inhouse seminars and partner mentoring to help them apply their learning,” she said.

Under the new system, a trainee must complete the compulsory subjects of lawyer’s skills, problem solving, work management and business skills, trust and office accounting, ethics and professional responsibility, civil litigation practice, commercial and corporate practice, and property law practice.

Trainees must also complete two elective subjects – one from a list of administrative law, criminal law and family law; and the second from a list of consumer law, employment and industrial relations, planning and environmental law, and wills and estates.

Three subjects must be taught externally through an approved training provider – ethics and professional responsibility, lawyer’s skills, and the risk management element of work management and business skills.

The remainder of the subjects can be taught either through employer training or externally.

CLE and Board of Examiners (BOE) CEO Richard Besley said the categories of eligible supervisors for inhouse training had been expanded to include government, corporate, commercial and community legal officers engaged in legal practice principally in Victoria who had worked for at least five years in the manner of a solicitor.

A practising barrister with five years’ experience was also eligible if at least three years of experience had been spent in practice as a solicitor.

If a person had not engaged in legal practice within the past five years, they would need to practise for at least one further year to be an eligible supervisor.

This article is only an introduction to some of the changes and for more detailed information, see the LIV website at http://www.careers.liv.asn.au/content.asp?contentid=83 and the Board of Examiners page at http://www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au.

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