IN AN effort to address the daily tribulations faced by in-house counsel, the College of Law and Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) will launch an online program for new and experienced lawyers this month.
“This is not really in the course description, but what we like to say it that it is the sort of stuff you know when you’ve been doing an in-house role for five years and you understand the contact and the practical issues and the way in which stuff come across the desk of an in-house lawyer,” Greg Dwyer, director of practice management at The College of Law.
Entitled the In-house Legal Practice Graduate Program, the course will take its first intakes on 26 February this year.
Students will be able to choose elective subjects covering matters from acting as company secretary, managing a legal team, administering government policy and legislation, operating in the global context, risk management and compliance, and managing multi-disciplinary projects.
Dwyer told Lawyers Weekly that both ACLA and The College of Law have been aware of a gap in this market for some time.
According to ACLA CEO Peter Turner, academic institutions have not previously offered a course of this kind. “The simple reason that gap has not been filled is because it wasn’t until the College came along that a supplier was so specialised as the College is in online presentation.”
Steering away from core legal subjects, the course is the first of its kind to specifically target in-house lawyers and address issues that are particular to the work they do.
“There will obviously be law in it, but the thrust of it is not to try to do something like a Masters program; it very much fits in the College’s mould of doing things to do with practical hands-on application to jobs,” Dwyer said.
“The law might be the same as it is in private practice but the context in which you have to deal with it, as we understand it, is different.”
Dwyer argued that because of the relationships between in-house lawyers and the companies they advise, the dynamics are different to practising in a private firm. “You are within the client’s [premises], the client employs you, you are advising the clients and the client is also your employer,” he said.
“They have certain expectations about the way in which you are part of their business. You as the lawyer still have all the usual professional duties that a [private practice] lawyer has, and yet clearly you have to be a half length from the client. And then, also in a good business sense, it is expected that you add value to what the company is doing.”
The course’s online capabilities make it available nationally to a wide range of people. “It can be made available to people on their desktops, in small organisations, to single practitioners and so on. People can do the course at their own pace. That is something that wasn’t there some years ago,” Turner said.