UNSW Law to address industry’s outdated training methods

By Reporter|27 August 2019

UNSW Law is set to roll out a new training program in a bid to equip the next generation of lawyers with the “practice ready” skills they need in today’s legal environment.

UNSW Law has confirmed it will officially launch NSW’s first accredited Practical Legal Training program in NSW in 20 years – a Graduate Diploma of Legal Professional Practice (GDLPP), commencing February 2020.

The new program comes after the law school realised there was a gap in the market for training that responded to the transformation of the legal profession in recent years, according to Associate Professor Vedna Jivan.

“The lawyer’s role and the legal workplace have changed over the last decade. The practices of the past are being replaced by emergent technologies and new ways of working. Business has evolved,” Professor Jivan said.

“From eDiscovery and smart contracts to cloud-enabled practice management tools, legal practitioners must have a broader technological knowledge and know-how than [what] has been required in the past. Skill sets like project management, data analysis, business acumen and collaboration are also required in today’s legal marketplace, be it in the corporate, government, not-for-profit sector or start-ups.

“Quality legal education in Australia should not only keep pace but play a significant role in leading the industry’s transformation. The legal profession and legal educators have reached a tipping point: training methods and education that prepared past generations for a lawyer-centric industry no longer fit the changing needs of the market. The legal profession in Australia has been subject to rapid and dramatic changes due to shifts in client demands, policy amendments, fluctuating labour markets, and most notably, technological advancements.”

Professor Jivan noted the new program meets the demands for “deeper integration between substantive education and practice by offering a distinctive, practice ready program for law graduates intending to seek admission to the legal profession”.

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“Consisting of coursework and workplace experience or a practicum, the GDLPP is designed to develop both practical skills and proficiency in the day-to-day practice of law. The program begins with a five-day face-to-face workshop, followed by online coursework over 19 weeks,” she said.

“…Noting the difficulties students have finding meaningful workplace experience, the program also offers unique placement opportunities in the faculty’s in-house clinics and legal centres such as Kingsford Legal Centre, Refugee Advice and Casework Service and Youth Law Australia and partner organisations. Further, in an educational first in pre-admission programs, the practicum provides the flexibility to focus on areas of innovation, including the future of legal innovation in practice and specialised social justice contexts.”

The practicum, Professor Jivan explained, creates opportunities for students to combine placements, simulated workplaces, technical learning spaces, law-related projects, continuing legal education, and structured reflective practice.

“Students will be able to choose from online or face-to-face or blended modes depending on their preferred focus. For example, students might choose to undertake the practicum as an extended workplace experience activity or combine this with online learning modules on specialised legal practice and technology topics,” she said.

“The GDLPP is therefore designed to offer students a flexible, predominantly digital pathway to practice that is aligned to UNSW Law’s mission of social justice, adaptable skills and broad horizons. The program prioritises student engagement based on a practitioner mentor model and is designed to ensure a pace that prioritises student wellbeing. It also utilises cross-disciplinary partnerships with leading wellbeing institutions to support students as they progress through the course.”

UNSW Law to address industry’s outdated training methods
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