In late 2014, the School of Law at La Trobe University and the Law Institute of Victoria formed a partnership for a teaching program which has seen later year law students placed as interns in law firms all over Victoria.
The Law Institute surveyed its members and encouraged law firms to offer internship places to law students to develop their practical legal skills and allow them to obtain their first experience of the law in action. La Trobe Law School developed an academic program to complement the students’ practical placement experiences.
The Law School called for applications from students and received considerably more applications than there were places. Law firms were able to select their own internship student from a number of applications. A Supervision Manual was developed to provide firms with guidance and assistance in supervising students. A lecturer from the Law School working with the students is available at all times to assist any students or firms who have questions or any problems in relation to the program.
As a result of this partnership between the Institute and the Law School, 12 law students are currently enrolled and undertaking the elective subject Legal Internship at La Trobe while undertaking placements in legal practices in metropolitan and regional Victoria. Students are not only placed in Melbourne but have taken up positions in Bendigo, Bairnsdale and Whittlesea over the summer period.
Students have regular classes both face to face and online in which they study communication skills, technology and the law and issues relating to the future of the legal profession, diversity in the profession and legal ethics. Students also share their practice experiences and use their placement experience to discuss modes of lawyering and critically analyse the legal system in operation.
The program so far has been a great success. The variety of placements in the State has meant that:
- students from metropolitan Melbourne have had the chance to experience regional legal practice in a regional city
- regional students have had the chance to develop connections in their own city
- students who have had no practical experience through their degree have been able to have a taste of the reality of legal practice and gain confidence in their legal skills.
Quotes from students so far in the course are:
“It is great to be given real tasks to do”
“The way the solicitor prepared and communicated with the other parties was awe inspiring. I hope to one day have such skills ”
“This course is making me realise that there is a variety of legal working environments to choose from. This news is somewhat refreshing, as it makes me feel more empowered to enter a work environment that suits my aspirations and working style the best.”
“Were it not for the Law School starting up such a subject like this, I would not be lucky enough to experience these amazing first hand realities.”
It is anticipated that the subject and partnership between the Law Institute and the Law School will continue and expand in the future.