The purpose of this post is to draw together some facts and resources for law graduates undertaking practical legal training (), the bridge between the academy and practice.
I will provide some background to the regulatory requirements concerning. Then I will suggest some resources that might be useful to law graduates undertaking .
By way of disclosure I am an adjunct lecturer with the College of Law Australia, however this post reflects my personal views and should not be construed as authorised by the College of Law.
APLEC and the Law Admissions Consultative Committee ( The competency standards are categorized into Skills, Practice Areas, and Values. I understand that there are proposals to review these competency standards, so I will not dwell on them here. You can view the competency standards via the link at footnote 4.) have prescribed Competency Standards for Entry Level Lawyers.
Each Australian jurisdiction has its own admission rules, and these may incorporate the competency standards by reference. In essence, the rules usually require that a person seeking admission to the legal profession must provide evidence of academic qualification, practical legal training, and fitness to practice. See the admission rules (usually made under the relevant Legal Profession Act in your jurisdiction).
Why isa requirement?
In most professions, it is recognized that academic credentials are a necessary but not sufficient qualification for admission to practice. Most professions require graduates to complete a period of internship or practical experience as a part of the overall qualification. In the past, the legal profession provided practical training via articled clerkships. Law graduates today might be surprised to know that there was a time when law graduates paid a premium to the firm’s principal for an articled clerkship.
In Australia in 2006, the Victorian Department of Justice commissioned a Review of Legal Education Services at the direction of the then Attorney General, Hon Rob Hulls MP in 2006. The consultation and review process commenced in March and completed in July 2006. Ms Susan Campbell produced the Review of Legal Education Report, which quickly became known as ‘The Campbell Report’. The report’s first recommendation was thatreplace articles of clerkship.
The Campbell Report made 47 recommendations regarding several aspects of pre-admission training and continuing legal education; I am only mentioning a small part of it here, but the whole report is an interesting read.
(In 2006 in Victoria there already existed in addition to articles a form ofvia the Leo Cussen Institute, which was established by an Act of Parliament and received funding from the Legal Services Board.)
Articled clerkships had been the subject of some criticism. As Campbell observed:
Anecdotal evidence for many years has shown that the experience of articled clerks varies widely… accounts of clerks who have spent most of their articles year filing documents with the Land Titles Office, photocopying and carrying out other administrative tasks persist…
Several years ago one large firm allocated one-third of its articled clerks to a twenty-four hour roster of checking amendments to tender documents for a period of three months. The clerks concerned considered the only thing they learned from this experience (apart from “bonding” with their fellow clerks) was the importance of checking documents and felt they did not need to spend 25% of their articles year learning this.
The Campbell Report went on to say:
The central issue of concern is that the system itself contains no mechanisms to guarantee minimum standards and content of training and there is nothing to stop a graduate from being admitted to practice knowing no more than he or she did at the end of their University degree.
Long story, short, the Victorian government adopted the recommendation to replaced articled clerkships, albeit with two pathways: Practical Legal Training or Supervised Workplace Training (, looks a bit like articles but involves an approved training plan and the requirement to outsource training for Trust and Office Accounting, and Professional Responsibility). Law firms adopting the pathway must have their training plan approved by the Council of Legal Education. Anecdotally, not many firms have embraced in comparison to firms that enrol their graduates in a course.
So the goal is to achieve at least minimum standards of pre-admission practical legal training for graduate lawyers.
Practical Issues for Law Graduates undertaking
Most, not all, law graduates will seek admission to the profession and will need to complete some form of practical legal training. This could be by way of funding their own, or taking up a graduate position that involved funding of or a position.
Somecolleges offer a choice of part-time or full-time courses. The course design might involve a work placement for some of the course or in addition to coursework arranged by the law graduate or by the college. Whatever the course design, it must be approved by the relevant authority.
For graduates involved in full-time or part-time work placements at law firms the challenge will be to complete therequirements and meet the expectations of their employer and supervising partner.
The Campbell Report’s comments above regarding the problems with articled clerkships might still apply in relation to the kind of work and volume of work a graduate is expected to do.
If a graduate is inundated with placement work, it is not surprising that thecoursework gets pushed aside. In fact, given the graduate is likely to prioritise the placement work because it is regarded as most relevant to the graduate’s employment prospects, it would not be surprising if the graduate comes to resent the requirements entirely.
It is possible that the employer might share some of the graduate’s feelings; even if the employer accepts that thecoursework is desirable, those thoughts might vanish under the pressure of practice workloads and time pressures. I submit, however, that employers and supervisors do have ethical, legal and professional obligations to ensure the graduate actually does receive and undertake their practical legal training.
Other things may flow from this. If the graduate cannot complete thecoursework during business hours (which might involve very long days) then the graduate must somehow make up that time during personal time, and that can affect work/life balance and the home environment.
Anecdotally, those problems might be exacerbated for graduates who are not being paid at least the minimum wage under the Legal Services Award 2010.
In this situation, the graduate is under pressure at work and at home, little time is allowed to complete thecoursework, and the is degraded as interfering with work etc; it would not be surprising if the graduate resists the , does not engage with the learning tasks, and does not derive the intended benefit from the training.
I submit that it is in everybody’s interest to provide a supportive environment forgraduates to undertake their practical legal training. Real support would include actual time being allocated (and taken) to properly undertake the coursework, and legal practitioners supporting as a worthwhile undertaking that is important and relevant to building an entry-level lawyer’s competency to undertake legal practice.
As prospective lawyers, law graduates can empower themselves by identifying their resources and using them in a professional way.
The federal Legal Services Award 2010 is applicable to graduate lawyers undertaking practical legal training; s 39 of the Award relates to special conditions of employment for law graduates: Legal Services Award 2010
Look for Guidelines issued by your local law society; for example, the Young Lawyers section of the Law Institute of Victoria has issued Guidelines for Supervised Workplace Trainees, Law Graduates and Supervisors. These guidelines provide useful advice for dealing with problems that might arise: Guidelines for Supervised Workplace Trainees, Law Graduates and Supervisors
Resilience and Mental Health is a hot topic for the legal profession nationally, with several firms, Trying to Tame the Black Dogcolleges and universities including it as a part of their training. See, for example, this post in the Australasian Law Management Journal from the Australian Law Council’s Legal Practice Section:
The Survive Law Blog is an excellent resource too.
Are you a law graduate undertaking Practical Legal Training? Do you think you get the time you need to get the best out of
 Legal Practitioners Act 1981 (SA) s 14C; Legal Practitioners Education and Admission Council Rules 2004 (SA) r 2; Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW) s 24(b)(i); Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic) s 2.3.2(1)(c); Legal Profession Act 2006 (ACT) s 21(b)(i); Legal Profession Act 2007 (Tas) s 25(b)(i); Legal Profession Act 2008 (NT) s 29(1)(c)(i); Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA) s 21(2)(c).
 “APLEC”; its members are comprised of providers of practical legal education: http://www.aplec.asn.au/aplec/dsp_aplec.cfm
 Campbell, S 2006, Review of Legal Education Report – Pre-Admission and Continuing Legal Education, Department of Justice (Victoria), Melbourne, p 28.
 n 5, p 29.