THE FATE of articled clerkships in Victoria hangs on empirical evidence set to reveal whether they are the best forms of pre-admission training.
Despite last year’s record number of knock-backs from firms, and claims by some industry sources that opportunities had diminished by as much as 330 per cent in that year alone, the State’s Attorney-General Rob Hulls has spurred the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) into action in order to determine whether articled clerks are receiving adequate training.
A survey will now ask those undertaking a clerkship to assess the quality and extent of professional and personal development offered by their employers.
Hulls said the survey would seek to quantify anecdotal evidence that suggests the articles system varied from law firm to law firm.
“The articles system should provide a rich, legally stimulating and nurturing environment for graduates seeking admission to practise law,” Hulls said.
Hulls accepted that not all articled clerks enjoyed a positive experience and suggested this could lead them to abandon their legal career before it had even fully taken off.
The analysis would appear to be an implied acknowledgement that other options should be considered for graduates prior to admission to practice. Practical legal training (PLT) courses would be a possible alternative to clerkships, should the results be less than positive.
But LIV president Chris Dale told Lawyers Weekly that the LIV was getting feedback from firms that articles were not an excellent form of learning prior to admission to practice.
“There are different views on that but the preponderance was that good forms of articled clerkships were good,” he said.
Dale said that when articled clerkships worked well they were perfect, but this was not always the case. “We need to do what we can to ensure there are improvements to the basic broad level of tuition.”
Firms are increasingly having to do more than just have the person work for them, said Dale. “There are obligations now to give tuition in certain areas of practical training over and above just having the person work in the office.”
The LIV is keen to lift the level of tuition to cover a wider area, and it is now asking whether there need to be further reforms.
The LIV argues it is worthwhile conducting the study, and suggested that reforms would be made if this was necessary. “It’s a healthy study and is focusing on continuous improvement — it’s a matter of improving all parts of the profession,” Dale said.