When you’re in the final year of your law degree, having dedicated thousands of hours to studying, exams, coursework and training, you might finally start feeling that your life as a lawyer is about to begin. And it is! At Leo Cussen your professional career begins with Practical Legal Training, where you’ll put your legal knowledge into action.
Australia is renowned for its university law courses, so it’s no surprise that its postgraduate training courses are also stellar. Once your law degree has been completed, it’s time to close the textbooks. Your final period of study is a compulsory but also exciting stage, known at Practical Legal Training or PLT.
PLT in Australia is where you learn to apply all of the knowledge from your law degree into real-life, practical situations – hence the name. As there is much more to being a lawyer than just what you learn in your degree, PLT will help you to broaden your skills and experience and thus make you more employable.
At Leo Cussen, PLT can be studied either in fulltime or part-time mode, lasting for 24 or 45 weeks respectively, including PLT placement. Law graduates study 12 topics, focusing on skills, core practice areas and values, as well as a number of electives on a specific topic. A legal work placement is then undertaken at the end of the PLT course in a legal workplace such as a law firm or community legal centre, to further enhance your skills. Upon completion of PLT, graduates will be awarded with a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice.
Once PLT has been completed, you then have to apply for admission through your state’s Admitting Authority, in order to become a qualified lawyer. This is a very important step, with three criteria to satisfy, although by the time you get to this stage, you will have already satisfied two of the criteria, which are the successful completion of a law degree, and the successful completion of PLT and the attainment of a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice.
The last criteria relates to being a fit and proper person, which primarily relates to ethics and moral character, and understanding the duties of being a lawyer, such as disclosing any criminal, academic or general misconduct which may impact your ability to work within the legal system.
Once you have been admitted to the legal profession, the next stage involves 24 months of supervised legal practice as an employee lawyer with a Restricted Practising Certificate. If you have already decided on the particular law field in which you would like to practise (e.g. finance, family, corporate, criminal etc.), then this is the ideal time to gain experience in that field.
After the completion of supervised practice, you can then apply for an Unrestricted Practising Certificate, which enables you to begin working more independently as a lawyer, or you can then undertake further study and specialisation to become a barrister. It is at this step that many lawyers settle on their chosen field of law.
Given the immense complexities surrounding the practice of law, it should be no surprise that the path to becoming a lawyer is long and challenging, yet thoroughly rewarding.