An important step on the path to becoming a practising lawyer is the completion of Practical Legal Training (PLT). While a law degree teaches you about and how to use the law, PLT teaches you how to be a lawyer. Yet many graduates find PLT to be equally an unnerving and exciting experience, as it’s their first real step towards entering the field of law. It’s therefore helpful for graduates to know just what exactly is involved in PLT, as well as how their day might look when undertaking it.
During PLT, you learn how to do the day-to-day work of a lawyer. At Leo Cussen, this focuses on learning how to manage a client’s matter from the first phone call conversation with them, to the first face to face meeting, through researching and providing advice about their legal situation, to negotiating on their behalf, preparing legal documents or representing them in a court or tribunal. Students are also shown how to complete the case by creating and sending the final advice and invoice to the client, and thereafter closing the client’s file.
If you’re a PLT student who is busy juggling work and study, then the daily experience will be as different for you as it is for every other lawyer. On a certain day you might be writing letters of advice to your clients; on another, you will be doing court appearances before barristers, tribunal members, or even judges. Some days will involve negotiating with the PLT student who is representing the other party to resolve a transaction or dispute; on other days you will be drafting a will and getting your mock client to sign it. Every day in PLT with Leo Cussen is different, every day is interesting, and every day involves learning with and from your colleagues, mentors and the members of the law profession instructing you in their areas of specialisation.
Our PLT course structure can be completed in a number of ways, such as through full-time or part-time study plus several weeks of placement. For full-time PLT study, such as with Leo Cussen, graduates will undertake 21 weeks of coursework, comprising around 25 hours of study and tasks per week. For part-time study, graduates undertake 42 weeks of coursework, with around 15 hours per week of study and tasks. At the end of either period, a three-week professional work placement is completed at either a private law firm, community legal centre, government agency, public-interest organisation, or via our online work-placement module.
The 13 subjects comprise 11 core subjects and two electives:
SKILLS AND VALUES
Lawyer’s Skills (communication skills, interviewing, letter writing, drafting, negotiation and advocacy)
Problem Solving (problem analysis, statutory interpretation, practical legal research)
Trust and Office Accounting
Work Management and Business Skills (including professional placement, file management and risk management)
Ethics and Professional Responsibility
Wellbeing for Lawyers
CLIP – Client/Lawyer Interviewing Program
CORE PRACTICE AREAS
Commercial & Corporate Practice
Criminal Law Practice
CHOICE AREAS OF STREAMS (must complete 2)
Administrative Law Practice
Family Law Practice
Consumer Law Practice
Employment & Industrial Relations Practice
Planning and Environmental Law Practice
Wills and Estates Practice
Banking & Finance
The subjects studied aim to give graduates a broad view of the kinds of legal work they can encounter in their professional roles as lawyers, in order to satisfy the National Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers as set out by the Legal Profession Uniform Admission Rules 2015 (which can be read here).
Just as trainee doctors choose a specialisation after completing their studies and gain experience in that area, so do lawyers tend to focus on a particular area of law and then gain the skills to work effectively within that area. While most work placements will be unpaid internships, some companies may pay you a wage or offer meal or travel allowances. Though one benefit of PLT is that law firms will be able to see you at work, putting you in a much better position to attain employment afterwards.
PLT is a necessary step towards becoming a lawyer, and while it can be stressful, graduates should look on it as an ideal way to finally put all of their hard work and hours of study into practice, before entering the exciting world of law.