While many prospective lawyers don't turn their minds to the mandatory practical legal training (PLT) requirement to practice until after they graduate, two final-semester law students at The Australian National University are already firmly on the path to their Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP).
In this blog, two students share their tips on fast-tracking your pathway into the legal profession by undertaking your PLT before graduating from law school.
What is PLT?
PLT is the final stepping stone for law students aspiring to become practising lawyers. Typically spanning six months and delivered by a variety of providers across Australia online and in-person, PLT is a structured training program designed to help you develop the practical, day-to-day skills you will need as an entry-level lawyer.
Upon completion of your PLT, you will be awarded a GDLP. This qualification, in addition to your Bachelor of Laws (Hons) or Juris Doctor degree, makes you eligible to apply for admission as a legal practitioner in your state or territory.
Under Admission to Practice rules in both Victoria and New South Wales, final-semester law students can enrol in a PLT program provided they have only two subjects remaining and have completed the Priestly-11 subjects, the mandatory subjects in a law degree required before any students can be admitted to practice.
Getting in early
Helen and Madeleine are in the final semester of their Juris Doctor and Bachelor of International Security Studies/Laws (Hons) degrees respectively. Both met in their first mandatory class at their chosen PLT provider, the Leo Cussen Centre for Law, where they discussed the ‘concurrent study’ process and its under-utilisation by final-year students.
The Australian National University has partnered with the Leo Cussen Centre for Law to provide an on-campus PLT option for law graduates. Students can choose from an in-person Australian Capital Territory PLT course both full- and part-time taught on campus at ANU. Alternatively, an online study option is available for interstate students.
Madeleine and Helen, who both plan to be admitted to practice in Victoria, chose the Victorian online, full-time offering to take advantage of the concurrent study option and balance their PLT with other commitments.
Flexible and fast-tracked
For Madeleine, the ability to complete her PLT in her final semester meant finishing all her studies before the end of her fifth year of uni. One of her motivating factors is her goal to spend six months overseas in the early half of next year before commencing as a fully admitted lawyer in July 2023.
To capitalise on this opportunity, Madeleine says it’s important to start thinking early.
“I would encourage all third-year students to look now at whether they can structure their degree to have only two subjects in your final semester. The PLT workload is about the equivalent of two undergraduate subjects, and is very doable alongside your final electives,” she said.
For Helen, completing her GDLP now rather than later was a priority as she is currently expecting her second child.
Studying online from her home in Victoria, Helen said her Juris Doctor studies had fostered a strong sense of self-confidence and plentiful legal skills
“I genuinely feel well-prepared and am very comfortable with deadlines and figuring something out if I do not know it. I also truly believe that I could not have had two kids, undertaken a law degree (during COVID-19), and contemplated doing my PLT (all the while being based in Victoria) at any other university. The ANU College of Law faculty has been incredibly supportive,” she said.
Madeleine (front) is currently undertaking her PLT at the Leo Cussen Centre for Law and hopes to practise law in her home state of Victoria.
Kick-starting life as a lawyer
The Leo Cussen Centre for Law has a practical requirement spanning 15 days over the six-month GDLP program. The ability to study online has meant that alongside her PLT and uni studies, Madeleine can balance working part-time at a local law firm and casually for the College.
“ANU College of Law students come away with fantastic research and formal writing skills, both of which I have relied on heavily so far in submitting my PLT coursework. Also, ANU has provided me with a good legal education which has meant I can pick the legal issues I need to emphasise in my letters to clients, for example,” said Madeleine.
“Moreover, living in Canberra has meant so many opportunities to engage in legal work both with local firms and within the College’s internships and clinics programs.”
Madeleine and Helen both plan to graduate from ANU in December 2022.
Concurrent study options are offered in both NSW and Victoria for students with two or fewer elective subjects remaining in their final semester. It is not currently supported for those seeking admission in the Australian Capital Territory. More information here.