THE FATE of law graduates in Victoria is again an issue of contention with record numbers likely to be turned away by law firms because of a shortage of article clerkships and practical legal training places.
Offering nearly half the State’s graduates an alternative to choosing other professions or taking some time out in the hope of better luck next year, a new practical legal training (PLT) course being offered for the first time in Victoria is expected to give graduates that extra edge to fulfil their admission requirements.
As firms are forced to reject students, the new course, being offered by the College of Law and the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV), promises unlimited places for graduates from April next year.
The LIV appeared to forecast a looming crisis for graduates last year when it began negotiations with the state Attorney-General to allow students to undertake PLT online, much like the courses offered in NSW.
The LIV president at the time, Bill O’Shea, urged students to consider applying to suburban firms and strongly promoted Victorian regional centres as a viable option to the mega firms.
But it is hoped these fears will be quelled by the extra PLT places.
LIV chief executive officer John Cain said law graduates often move between professions once they join the workforce, but that they should at least have the opportunity to be admitted to the legal profession if they wished.
“Although these students might not work in private legal practice, this course will enable them to complete that chapter of their legal training, which stands them in good stead regardless of which profession they choose to pursue,” Cain said.
The new PLT course combines online coursework with a face-to-face component, almost four months of work experience and continuing professional education. Due to multiple start dates and shorter course requirements, the course will provide increased accessibility and flexibility, according to the LIV and the College of Law.
This is important to students, said Chris Roper, establishment director at the College of Law Victoria. “Our experience in other states has shown us that students want a high level of flexibility and accessibility when studying and they find the online an attractive option.”