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Intern guidelines

Intern guidelines

By Law Institute Journal

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Advice for interns and law firms will protect both and help ensure compliance with workplace laws.

The LIV has created guidelines on unpaid internships for law firms, law students, graduates and young lawyers, taking the lead nationally in stipulating best practice standards.

The guidelines, created to protect young lawyers from exploitation and to help law practices comply with workplace laws, come in the form of three fact sheets which detail obligations, tips and advice.

Fact sheet 1 for employers details the legal obligations of legal practices/employers when taking on young lawyers on an unpaid basis and will support employers by providing practical tips and advice to deal with difficult situations where interns and students are requesting to work in a way that risks the law practice/employer breaching their obligations.

Fact sheet 2 for interns contains information for unpaid interns looking to undertake placement with a law practice, to understand their rights and responsibilities and raise concerns with their placement supervisor.

Fact sheet 3 explains the consequences if an unpaid internship is found by the Fair Work Ombudsman to be an employment relationship.

The fact sheets take into account consideration by the Fair Work Commission, including the decision in Mitchelle Klievens v Cappello Rowe Lawyers, and specifically, key indicators that may suggest whether an employment relationship exists.

The guidelines were created by the Young Lawyers Executive, led by 2017 YL president Phoebe Blank, and legal policy and practice sections at the LIV. The LIV Workplace Relations Committee also provided guidance. The project was endorsed by LIV Council this year.

Ms Blank, a senior associate at Kennedys, said unpaid internships are an excellent opportunity for young lawyers to kick start their legal career by exploring whether they will enjoy a career in legal practice and by building networks prior to practising.

“Interns and employers should follow the LIV guidelines and use the fact sheets to ensure they are both protected and comply with best practice standards,” Ms Blank said.

YL president Brendan Lacota said: “Young lawyers and law students are an incredible resource for community legal centres and volunteer organisations. It’s important that we respect their value and help them develop into the lawyers of tomorrow. The LIV unpaid internship guidelines will help young lawyers gain the skills they need and protect them from exploitation in the work place.”

The fact sheets will be on the Young Lawyers and the Ethics and Professional Practice pages of the LIV website. Free print copies will be available at the LIV bookshop LawBooks.

Further educational materials examining the issue of unpaid internships will be developed and communicated through LIV channels.

The LIV position on unpaid interns:

Unpaid internships include vocational placements, unpaid job placements, internships, work experience and trials.

The LIV recognises the need to foster and encourage internships and work experience.

The LIV recognises the need to support law practices in understanding and fulfilling their responsibilities for unpaid internships and work experience.

Unpaid internships are not illegal if they are part of a vocational placement (Fair Work Act s12) or if an employment relationship does not exist.

Practical legal training (PLT) is vocational placement. PLT can be unpaid. PLT can also be paid and undertaken concurrently with an employment relationship.

Whether an employment relationship will exist will be determined on the facts. However, an employment relationship will not exist where the person, the unpaid intern, is receiving the benefit and they are not required by the firm to work. Therefore, not-for-profit and community legal centres will be protected as there is no employment relationship and, while this sector relies on unpaid interns, they are not required to work.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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