IN JURISDICTIONS where article clerkships are an option for completing pre-admission training requirements, an increasing number of law graduates are electing to go to The College of Law instead.
Over 220 graduates undertook the Victorian Professional Program (VPP) in 2006, up 40 per cent on 2005.
In Queensland, The College of Law’s next biggest market outside of New South Wales, 255 students undertook the program in 2006, up 60 per cent on the previous year.
Katrina Koniuszko, who studied law at Deakin University, recently completed the VPP and will graduate from The College of Law in November. She chose College of Law over articles because it offered her more flexibility.
“The main reason I chose to do College of Law is that they have a part-time program so you can continue to do things like post-graduate study or work full-time. Basically you can have a life.
“The other benefit is you can get it done quicker. Through College of Law it’s only six months full-time and eight months part-time, so you can gain admission quicker,” she said.
Koniuszko estimates that about half of her friends at Deakin University went to College of Law and half did articles.
“A lot didn’t get accepted to do articles so they went to College. But applying for articled clerkships is a really stressful experience and you can avoid all that by going to College,” she said.
The College of Law offers practical legal training in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and now Western Australia.
The ACT, NSW and South Australia have already abolished articles as a path to admission and Neville Carter, managing director of The College of Law, believes other states may go the same way in the next five to ten years.
“In truth, if you get good articles training with a good mentor you don’t get better training anywhere. But the system in Australia is large and diverse so the problem is how does the system of articles sign off on baseline standards for everybody?,” he said.
“We think there will be a move to more structured training because of the LACC [Law Admissions Consultative Committee] competencies. Now there are 100 entry level skills that every new lawyer must have and that’s common across Australia. That means whether you do articles or PLT you have to sign off on these competencies. Not all placements in articles can give students training in all those competencies. So, in Queensland the admitting authorities say you will need to add on training in competencies you have not achieved. In Victoria, the Campbell Committee recommended the same thing. Into the future people in articled clerkship will have to do extra training anyway, and as training goes on employers will probably think [the College of Law] is the best way to manage the training of their new clerks.”
However, Neville said the large number of legal graduates mean the College of Law and articles system will continue side-by-side for the moment.
“The issue now is, how do the systems accommodate training for the large number of graduates? I don’t think either of us are feeling pressure from the other — it’s about co-operating to ensure we can meet the education needs,” he said.