AN INTEGRATED Secretariat officially opened in Victoria this month, with the Council of Legal Education and the Board of Examiners now housed under the same roof.
It has taken six months to establish the new organisation, which will be staffed by eight full-time employees.
Jointly, the Council and the Board regulate entry into the legal profession in Victoria. They have a combined history of 250 years of operation in Victoria.
The Board determines the eligibility of individual applicants for admission and provides certification, while the Council determines the requirements for admission and approves law courses, practical legal training providers and assesses the qualification of overseas practitioners.
The Secretariat also has responsibility for implementing the Supervised Workplace Training Scheme to replace the articles system.
The abolition of articles in Victoria was just one of 47 recommendations made in the Campbell Report, which resulted in the Legal Profession Amendment (Education) Act in 2008.
Victorian Attorney-General Robb Hulls described the Secretariat as “vital to the success” of the Campbell reforms at both the pre and post-admission stage.
“These premises are a tangible expression of the evolution of Victoria’s legal profession: a physical manifestation, if you like, of our desire to serve the interests of the law,” the Attorney-General said.
Marilyn Warren, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, was also in attendance at the historic opening.
“Today brings us to the culmination of the Campbell reforms— the establishment of the Secretariat of the Council and the Board of Examiners and the opening of its home. It is a significant moment in Victoria’s legal history,” she said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Secretariat, Richard Besley, said the new body would be able to handle applications more efficiently. He said the highest volume of work came from applicants with overseas qualifications. Overseas practitioners will now be able to receive their assessment from the Council and make their submission to the Board on the same premises, streamlining the application process.
The growing number of legal education service providers and multiple-delivery platforms has put increasing demands on the resources of the Council, which will be alleviated by the combined resources of the Secretariat, Besley said.
“The fact is that the job has become so much more complex [with] the increase in the number of law schools, the national profession, online training, that the Council needed more support and more resourcing.”
The Secretariat will enforce a new set of national competencies under the Supervised Workplace Training Scheme — more than 220 rules set out by prescriptive performance criteria. Two of the new, tougher, rules for admission include the provision of an up-to-date police check and statements from the applicants’ law school and, if relevant, their PLT course, concerning disclosure of academic misconduct.
The move to supervised training was overdue, and necessary to ensure national consistency in regulation of the legal profession, Besley said.
“The Victoria articles system … was the only scheme where there was no structured training requirements, so that was … no longer seen as appropriate, so we had to adopt the national competencies, which are the basic requirements of Practical Legal Training (PLT),” he said.
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