When a new lawyer enters the profession, how do they experience it for the first time? What are their strongest skills and where do they need further development to begin their careers with confidence. These were some of the critical questions we asked the Australian legal profession during 2021.


Earlier last year Leo Cussen Centre for Law had devised a bold and courageous vision for its next 50 years. It would transform the profession through education and connection. But to achieve this, we would first need to transform ourselves.

Leo Cussen wanted to understand how we could better prepare graduates for the present and future of the legal practice, while continuing to deliver excellence in practical legal education.

We heard the same answers repeated: sound technical skills were essential and considered the foundation skills that an employer could build on.  Accuracy in writing and drafting was equally important.

What stood out most was that instinctive skills were the elusive ingredient that took a new lawyer from good to great:

  • Curiosity
  • Collaboration
  • Integrity
  • Ethics
  • Reliability
  • Self-management
  • Adaptability 
  • Creativity

With such focus on critical thinking, logic, reasoning, and objectivity, we wondered if pre-admission legal education had overlooked the importance of ‘right brain thinking’, leaving many graduate lawyers with a skills gap. To respond and address this, we resolved to design a graduate program that taught and developed the skills that would take new lawyers from good to great – a program to develop the Whole Lawyer.

We began by bringing together our entire Practical Legal Training team for two days of design thinking. With over 300 years of collective education experience in the room, the Leo Cussen team unleashed their imaginations on how they might train the lawyers of the future.

In June 2021, the Learning Transformation Project was formed and the creative journey towards designing a revolutionary new program for the Whole Lawyer was underway.

The Whole Lawyer embodies a set of professional capabilities taught and developed in our Graduate Program. By enhancing these capabilities, we aim to support continuing competence throughout the entire career of our alumni and clients.

The Leo Cussen Graduate Program fosters a holistic approach to legal work by enlivening our graduates’ intuition, adaptability, curiosity, and creativity.


The Whole Lawyer balances 4 professional capabilities:

  • Technical Capability – A technically proficient lawyer who can write with clarity and run client matters across a range of entry level practice areas.
  • Human Skills – An empathetic lawyer with a growing emotional intelligence who can engage in effective client interactions, negotiation, and advocacy.
  • Character – A values driven and self-aware lawyer who acts with integrity, professionalism, and a deep sense of ethics.
  • Adaptability – A curious and creative legal thinker who is digitally savvy and adapts to differing circumstances and needs.


The Leo Cussen Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) is designed to teach and appraise the professional capabilities of the Whole Lawyer through 4 distinct yet interrelated program components:

  • Rotations – Graduates build their Technical Capability as they progress through practice rotations. Here, they will run client matters across a range of practice areas under the supervision of expert practitioners.
  • Immersives – Human Skills are enhanced through immersive synchronous learning and are essential for effective client interaction, negotiation, and advocacy. Graduates also have the option to be seconded as part of their GDLP to work with real clients as a paralegal for Anika Legal.
  • Mentoring – Through a carefully designed mentoring program, graduates develop their Character by focussing on ethics, professionalism, and reflective practice.
  • Leo Justice Lab – Graduates hone their Adaptability through the Justice Lab, where they work in teams to solve a real-access-to-justice problem faced by a partner organisation. They are taught and appraised on transferable methods and mindsets for innovation, including legal tech awareness, critical thinking and collaborative problem solving.


The Whole Lawyer combines the logical, technical, and precise with the human, collaborative and creative. In an innovative and contemporary way, it also represents a philosophy of values that have been part of Leo Cussen since our inception in 1972.

By crafting the Whole Lawyer, we not only plan to transform the careers of our graduates, we also intend, over time, to transform the legal profession.


📽 Watch our short video to learn more


Madeleine Dupuche, Director Learning Transformation