Review of Academic Requirements for Admission - Legal Profession
Letter sent to Legal Practitioners' Admissions Board dated 30 March 2015:
REVIEW OF ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION - LEGAL PROFESSION
Law Society Northern Territory ("Society") is pleased to provide input into the review of the academic requirements for admission to the legal profession in Australia ("Review").
Comments on Section 6 of the Review
The Society maintains its position that the Priestley 11 should be the minimum academic study requirements for admission to the legal profession. The Priestley 11 continues to serve a relevant and appropriate purpose in setting a basic, required level of knowledge for all legal practitioners.
Removal of any elements of the Priestley 11 (such as civil procedure, evidence and ethics) is counterintuitive to the purpose and objects of admission to the legal profession. There is also a great risk that removing core elements will result in there being a failure to meet the community and consumer expectations that legal practitioners have acquired training in the fundamental principles of legal practice.
As such the Society also considers that statutory interpretation should be included as an additional prescribed academic requirement. Statutory interpretation is an integral component of legal practice and the skills gained in the training are broadly (if not specifically) applied across practice. Further, parliaments at all tiers of government are producing increasing volumes of new legislation and heavily modifying existing legislation. An ability to understand (as well as argue) statutory interpretation is therefore a key requirement of legal practice.
The Society has no other submission to make in terms of any additional areas of knowledge that ought to be added to the Priestley 11. However, in terms of the developing contextual changes that are referred to in the Review it is critical that a clear distinction is made between the requirements imposed by tertiary institutions for obtaining a Bachelor of Laws and the requirements for admission to the legal profession. The two concepts must be considered separately. It is also noted that demands for diversity and speciality in legal studies outside of the Priestley 11 are routinely met through means such as combined Bachelor of Laws/Jurisprudence courses, as well as Masters.
A "profession" is in part identified by special skill and learning. Entry to the legal profession also has a good fame and character requirement and members owe high and overriding duties of honesty to the courts, clients and other legal practitioners, lest public confidence in the administration of justice is eroded. This reflects the heavy responsibility legal practitioners have to themselves, each other and the public at large and demonstrates the need for the legal profession to ensure that those standards are not reduced.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into this important discussion.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information.
A copy of this letter has been sent to the Law Council of Australia.