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From the CEO: Steps towards better justice

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Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 6

Supervised workplace training is not articles by another name, but that is no reason for firms to fear the change.

From 1 July, the training of lawyers shifted to supervised workplace training. While for many firms it will not prove too different to the articled clerk system, there are some changes.

The biggest, perhaps, is in the mindset of both the trainee and the supervisor. It is now part of the training that the supervisor must confirm by affidavit that the trainee has completed each of the areas with appropriate competency and understanding.

Although there is no actual assessment, the supervisor must be confident that each trainee has reached the competencies required.

Under the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2008 (the Rules), which came into effect on 1 July, law graduates may complete a 12-month "traineeship" with a legal firm or office, working under the supervision of a practitioner. [For more on traineeships and the other avenue to admission (practical legal training), see "The new pathways to admission", page 77 of this edition of the LIJ.]

At the same time they must complete training in eight compulsory areas, plus two electives.

The compulsory training areas are divided into three areas - Skills, Practice Areas and Compulsory Values.

Under the Skills area there are four subjects - lawyers' skills, problem solving, work management and business skills, and trust and office accounting. Under Practice Areas, the subjects are civil litigation practice, commercial corporate practice and property law practice and the Compulsory Values subject is ethics and professional responsibility.

Trainees must also complete two optional practice areas - one of administrative law, criminal law or family law and one of consumer law, employment industrial relations, planning environment law, or wills and estate practice.

Trainees may complete the majority of their training either inhouse with their workplace or externally with an accredited practical legal training provider, or through a mixture of both.

Ethics and professional responsibility, lawyers' skills and the risk management elements under work management and business skills must be taught externally by an accredited provider.

Firms that do not have diverse areas of practice have alternatives. It is possible to second the trainee to a firm that offers different areas of law so that part of the training will be completed by another firm.

This offers firms some exciting opportunities.

For example, recently when I spoke to the Bendigo Law Association recently about supervised workplace training, members acknowledged it was possible to plan together to provide the training based on the expertise contained in each firm. Firms that did conveyancing but not criminal law could send their trainees to a criminal law specialist firm and receive trainees in return.

It is this type of lateral thinking that will enable the system to be introduced without too many glitches.

An important feature of supervised workplace training is that it can be undertaken part-time. This opens up opportunities for smaller firms which may not be able to financially justify a full-time addition to their practice and such flexibility increases the pool of talent available and offers opportunities for disadvantaged groups of workers, such as women returning to work after taking time out for parenting.

Supervised workplace training grew out of work undertaken by Professor Sue Campbell at the request of the Victorian Attorney-General.

Prof Campbell's "Review of Legal Education Report" highlighted the diversity of training that was received by articled clerks and sought to introduce a system that provided more certainty in the standards of training. To this end, Victoria largely followed the Queensland model.

The LIV has been providing seminars to introduce the profession to the supervised workplace training program.

There has been strong interest but the LIV expects that many firms will show more interest in the New Year,
when the next intake of law graduates begin training. The LIV will, of course, provide further information seminars at that time.

The other major change that firms have expressed anxiety about is the requirement for each trainee to produce a training plan.

In response, the LIV is creating a program, accessible to members via the LIV website, which will enable firms to easily produce a training plan ready for submission to the Board of Examiners.

The program will allow a training plan to be printed ready for submission to the Board of Examiners within a month of the trainee commencing at the firm, and also allow firms to monitor each trainee's progress to ensure they have met the required competencies.

Where any training plans are not approved by the Board and firms are requested to resubmit their plan, the online program will enable the firm to log in and simply alter the existing plan.

The LIV will aid firms through the process of implementing the supervised workplace training system, and I am happy to give any member assistance with the new system's requirements.

For more information, see http://www.careers.liv.asn.au/clerkship.asp.

Michael Brett Young ceo@liv.asn.au

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