Written by Vedna Jivan, Anneka Ferguson, Barry Yau, Natalie Elson

17 August 2021

“I would definitely recommend this course to anyone because it is structured, tailored to me and has a human touch,” says UNSW PLT graduate.

Students of the newest UNSW practical legal training program (PLT) program – the Graduate Diploma in Legal Professional Practice (GDLPP) – are making their mark. Our recent graduates completed their PLT in July 2021 and are ready to join the strong, global network of 19,000+ UNSW Law & Justice alumni.

What is the GDLPP?

Now in its second year, the GDLPP is a distinctive pathway to practice for law graduates seeking admission to the legal profession. Our innovative practice-ready PLT program develops practical skills and proficiency in the day-to-day practice of law and is designed to surpass entry-level professional competency standards. The GDLPP is made up of an immersive week, 19 weeks of online coursework and 8 weeks of work integrated learning/practicum, which can be undertaken concurrently with the coursework component of the program.

How can students benefit from the GDLPP?

The program’s progressive future focus ‘with heart’ is receiving rave reviews. The GDLPP prioritises building confidence and competence in graduates as they transition into legal practice. The program has achieved outstanding results, building on the exemplar student experience that UNSW Law & Justice is renowned for.

The GDLPP utilises technology unprecedented in the PLT space and is premised on a mentoring model that offers students opportunities to upskill. Students in the program are supported by practitioner mentors and a team of experts that includes accredited specialists, senior counsel, barristers, legal practitioners, and partners from BigLaw, NewLaw, community legal centres, government, Legal Aid, sole practitioners and former judicial members and commissioners.

With an engaging curriculum and embedded innovations including legal project management, customised best practice resilience training, advanced cultural competency approaches, and an integrated and extensive focus on plain language writing and drafting, our PLT graduates are better prepared for practice.

What’s new in PLT?

The GDLPP’s innovative practicum provides students with the ultimate experiential opportunity, taking PLT to the next level of practice education. The practicum creates a platform for students to gain additional specialised experience, skills, knowledge, and the opportunity to do PLT their way.

The practicum features four new streams and mentoring by clinical psychologists, a diverse range of legal practitioners, senior counsel, software developers such as Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and social justice campaigners. The pathways include adaptive lawyering and leadership, commercial law, and entrepreneurship, specialised social justice and impact and legaltech and innovation. The practicum has been a gamechanger during COVID-19, successfully supporting students who find it difficult to accrue enough work experience to complete the requirements of the program.

2021 and Beyond

2021 has been an exceptionally busy year for the program. This included moving all coursework to an online delivery model, the introduction of remote workplace experience during COVID-19 and expanding to a national curriculum. This year also marked the launch of UNSW PLT’s first corporate partnership with a top tier law firm – Allens Linklaters – a successful pilot in providing PLT to its large cohort of law graduates.  

50 years on and 19,000 alumni later, the Faculty of Law & Justice continues to be dynamic and innovative, equipping students to succeed in multiple fields such as lawyers, judges, and policy makers in accordance with its social justice mandate – to contribute to justice and equality. With further innovations planned, the program seeks to continue to raise standards across PLT with 2022 looking even busier for the GDLPP and brighter for our next generation of lawyers.

What UNSW PLT graduates are saying about the GDLPP

“Thank you and the team for all of your commitment and support throughout the program. I had been told by my friends who have done PLT with (another provider) that it felt like a big tick in the box exercise, but the UNSW program couldn't be further from that. The support I received from the practitioner mentors made me feel that they were all genuinely invested in my learning and development as a legal practitioner. I learned so much. The assessments really did develop and challenge my practical skills. I would highly recommend the UNSW PLT program to all,” says Abbey Cooper, UNSW PLT Graduate, T1 2021.

“I would definitely recommend this course to anyone because it is structured, tailored to me and has a human touch. I also liked that no one assumed that I had prior legal work experience (because I don't) and that it was not a hindrance to me getting the most out of the workshops. Everyone was engaged, non-judgmental and friendly – which made me happy to participate and have a go without the fear that I would make a fool of myself.

“The emphasis on how values equal self-knowledge was also a really important point which drove home that we – as advocates, lawyers etc – can only do our best work if we take care of our own wellness and operate within our own boundaries. I also really like that this course acknowledges that some people will not go on to be solicitors and might take their legal skills elsewhere (as offered through the practicum),” says an anonymous survey recipient, UNSW PLT Graduate, T3 2020.

“A big thank you to the entire PLT team for putting together a great program. I wouldn't have chosen any other PLT provider and I'm so glad I went ahead with UNSW. I have told many of my fellow peers to also go against the grain and enrol at UNSW PLT if they really want to be prepared for the legal profession. I wanted to give particularly glowing feedback for the practitioner mentors. They blew my mind and their expertise and practical guidance have been super invaluable. Future cohorts at UNSW PLT would be so lucky to have them as mentors! Congrats to the entire PLT team - you all rock,” says Regie Anne Gardoce, UNSW PLT Graduate, T1 2020.

The UNSW PLT program would like to invite the Faculty’s alumni to join us in supporting our future lawyers. If you are interested in mentoring a PLT student through workplace experience opportunities, or have exciting ideas for emerging areas in the practicum or any other part of the GDLPP, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at plt@unsw.edu.au

GDLPP applications are now open. The next intake begins on 6 September 2021