By James Mark Brown
As part of the Clinical Legal Education program at La Trobe Law School, I am completing an internship at the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV). The institute was established in the colony of Victoria in 1859. It was initially formed as a collective to ensure that lawyers were adhering to required professional standards. Since inception it has undergone significant transformation, yet it still exists to serve its members and the Victorian community.
LIV is the peak representative body for the legal profession in Victoria. It advocates for its members, but also for the public interest in relation to justice issues more broadly. It provides valuable ongoing support to its members through professional development opportunities, area-specific committees and mandating professional standards among many others responsibilities. Importantly, LIV monitors and investigates ethical and compliance concerns in the profession which reinforces public confidence in the profession.
LIV is highly engaged in the work of government and frequently provides submissions on a range of issues that affect the legal system at a State and Federal level. Over the course of its existence it has become a powerful and influential figure in various law reform projects that continue to shape the justice system. LIV often consults State government on matters of significance and employs its expert knowledge to develop processes that streamline and ultimately improve legislative proposals. In this way, LIV can be perceived as a key mechanism in the legislative process which lies at the crux of any government’s mandate.
My internship at LIV has made me aware of the fact there is no ‘typical day’ working at such an institution. The culture is vibrant and free-flowing. It is not unusual to be working on several tasks over the course of the day, which is great for providing a variety of experience, but adds to a steep learning curve. My internship has involved undertaking research, drafting submissions to government and participating in team meetings. My role at LIV is to assist senior lawyers in the area of employment and workplace relations. This is a highly topical area due to proposed changes in relation to penalty rates, paid parental leave schemes and Fair Work Commission changes. Over the course of my internship I have assisted and directly drafted submissions in the aforementioned areas. Moreover, I have represented the LIV at professional seminars on employment law and discussed key issues with experts in the field. These experiences are very much emblematic of the dynamic, fast-paced and rewarding environment that LIV fosters.
The best aspect of working in the LIV legal policy team is that the process of law reform is distinct from traditional legal problem solving methods prevalent in the curriculum of law schools. Policy requires me to invert my thought process and envisage an outcome based approach in considering the effects of a body of law on people generally. This means that I must consider all issues not merely legal ones. Consideration is not restricted to the applicable provisions of statute, codes, case law or delegated legislation, but rather social, economic and a myriad of other factors. This is the foundation of any law reform analysis and inseparable from the community it serves.
The progression of technology and the altering structures of traditional law firms has resulted in the profession undergoing significant change. The rise of firms adopting non-traditional labour hire agreements represents an exciting opportunity for today’s future lawyers, although it is not without its perils. I have drafted submissions on the potential impact of these developments, with a particular focus on graduate and junior lawyers. Personally, as a soon-to-be graduate these insights have been invaluable for my future career.
James Brown is currently completing an internship in Workplace Relations at the Law Institute of Victoria. He is in his final year of study at La Trobe University undertaking a Bachelor of Laws degree.