Sunday, October 01, 2006

Victorian Entry Requirements To Change

Entry requirements for legal practitioners vary between states, with Victoria maintaining a system of ‘articled clerkships’, a system which has been the subject of intense criticism.

The Fin Review reported on 29 September 2006 that the Victorian system may well be overhauled as early as 2008. Under the new system, Victoria will adopt an approach similar to that used in Queensland. Admitting solicitors will enter into traineeship arrangements for some 12 months, which will combine work experience and compulsory training.

Any graduate unable to secure a traineeship will still be able to qualify by attending a practical legal training course, usually offered by a university law school.

The changes are designed to bring Victoria in line with a proposed streamlined national profession. The system of articled clerkships is believed to be an impediment to this as standards of training vary between different clerkships.

In smaller firms, clerks are typically lumped with a range of files from a broad range of practise areas. Larger firms frequently only expose clerks to limited specialised areas.

Under the new scheme, all forms taking on trainees will be required to provide experience in civil litigation, corporate law and property law. Firms will also be required to fund trainees attending courses in ethics and lawyers’ skills.

Existing barristers and solicitors may be required to attend an extra hour of compulsory CLE in ethics and professional responsibility.

The problem with new traineeships is that they might prove too expensive for smaller firms to carry out as they may not be able to afford the costs of external training in lawyers’ skills and ethics. One would hope that principals should be able to teach their junior staff the basic skills of lawyering – interviewing clients, taking file notes, arranging different kinds of files and maintaining trust accounts. Where a practice doesn’t keep a trust account, they might be able to make arrangements with another firm to provide training.

The proposed changes have received in-principle support from the Victorian Attorney-General.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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