Today, the Department of Justice published its Review of Legal Education Report. The Attorney-General, Mr Hulls, said the Government would give in-principle support to the Report’s recommendations.
The Report recommended that Victoria abolish the current Articles system and replace it with a “Traineeship” system similar to the Queensland model.
A graduate would complete a one year traineeship with a law firm, community legal centre, government office or corporation. A trainee would be required to undertake compulsory pre-admission training based on the “Competency Standards for Entry Level Lawyers” developed by the Law Admissions Consultative Committee and the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council. Some of this training could be internal, but seminars and assessment in “Lawyers’ Skills”, “Ethics and Responsibility” and part of “Work Management and Business Skills” would need to be completed externally.
Other key recommendations in the review include a proposed restructure of the Council of Legal Education and Board of Examiners, funding to be provided for special education projects and additional funding to help rural and regional trainees attend city based training.
I am glad that the entities with which one can complete a traineeship are broader than just law firms. I am also glad that there will be some standardised Statewide training. Previously, Victoria was the only State without minimum training requirements for Articled Clerks.
However, I am disappointed that (as far as I can see from my quick skim of the Report) it did not consider the idea of a Register for firms and corporations which were not suitable for trainees to undertake positions. I have raised this idea in a previous post.
I have a very passionate conviction in this regard because, although my own articles experience was perfectly fine, I have heard of a number of colleagues who were bullied, physically threatened and/or sexually harrassed during their Articles year. The most heinous example I know of is where a principal seduced the articled clerk under his supervision. To me, this seems be the ultimate breach of fiduciary duty, but there was no avenue for the articled clerk to raise it with any relevant body.
(If you are interested in reading more, I have raised these issues in my post on Ethics in Articles, and in a general context for all lawyers in my post on Bullying, Discrimination and Sexual Harrassment in Law Firms.)