What on Earth is PLT?
So you’ve graduated from your law degree…now what!? On Thursday I finished my last four assessments for PLT and I am now officially no longer a student! (Insert dancing lady emoji here) So I thought, there is no better time to write a blog answering all the burning questions you might have about PLT!
If you hear someone talk about PLT and you have no idea what they are talking about, I can assure you that you aren’t alone. I didn’t understand what PLT was until the final year of my degree. I was never made aware of it when I started my law degree in 2010 and being external meant I didn’t speak to other law students very often. So – if you don’t know much or anything about PLT or admission – then this blog is for you!
what is PLT?
PLT stands for Practical Legal Training and it is also called a Diploma in Legal Practice (well that is the official title at QUT). It is essentially a course where your practical legal skills are tested – so instead of research assignments and exams, think affidavits, court documents and client letters. I studied at QUT and from speaking with friends who have completed PLT at different institutes like the College of Law, the structure does vary. There is the option to complete it either part-time or full-time and either internally (where you go on campus) or externally online. I completed PLT full-time externally because of my work commitments. Full-time external PLT takes 5 months. PLT has replaced the old system of Articled Clerkships – which from my limited knowledge were paid employment positions with firms where you were paid a reduced salary to learn on the job for 12 months to 2 years. You must complete PLT if you want to be admitted as a lawyer. So, getting your law degree is the first part – then completing PLT is the second – and finally, you apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland for admission as a lawyer.
the structure of PLT
PLT is very different to your law degree in that rather than having 2-3 assessments per unit, you have 5-12 per unit. But don’t panic! The assessments aren’t massive research assignments – they are smaller practical based assessments which are far more relevant to the work you will do as a lawyer. The assessments range from opening and maintaining electronic files, to writing client letters with advice, trust accounting receipts, quantifying damages in a civil claim, filling out court documents and writing affidavits. And, depending on your electives – I chose family law and wills and estates, so I had the opportunity to draft consent orders, a divorce application and the administration of a deceased estate. A little warning though – there are a lot of assessments and you can expect (if you’re full-time) to have 2-3 a week to complete. It is recommended that you complete PLT part-time if you are working full-time, but I think that depends on whether you are happy to study after work and on weekends.
what is placement?
If you haven’t previously worked in a law firm, like me, then you will have to undertake a placement. Placement is unpaid work experience in a law firm and the aim is for you to learn on the job skills. The duration of placement varies from one educational institution to another – from as little as 15 days to as long as 75 days from my knowledge. Through QUT it was four weeks or 20 days. And while the requirement for admission through QUT is 15 days, they make it 20 days to ensure that you learn as much as possible and also as a bit of a buffer in case you are unlucky like me and catch the flu during your placement!!
The other difference between educational institutions is that some of them will assist you to find a placement and others will expect you to find your own. Through QUT there is someone designated to helping you find a placement, however, with that being said – I found my own anyway, as they do urge you to do this. But, if you don’t have any connections – don’t worry, I can only speak for QUT, but they will provide you with assistance to find a placement. What you do during placement will depend on what area of law you are working in and the size of the firm, etc. However, if you’re like me and don’t have any exposure to working in a law firm, it is likely that every day you will learn something! I attended the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court a few times during my placement and I found this super helpful. I haven’t been to court much during my degree, and the exposure to learning the etiquette, procedures and dynamics of court helped to take the ‘fear factor’ out of going to court in the future. So, if you do have any spare time during your degree, or if you have the opportunity to go to court during placement – I would really encourage you to do it!
Just a couple of tips for anyone who hasn’t been in court before – you bow when you enter the court if the judge is present, and you bow facing the judge before you exit the court. You should wear a blazer/jacket when in court. Make sure your phone isn’t on vibrate – it shouldn’t make any noise at all – and I saw a Barrister get in trouble for having his phone vibrate. You can only go into court if it is an open court, which most are. Closed courts are off limits to the general public. My last tip is to sign up to the online court lists – whatever your relevant area of law. Each day in the late afternoon you will be emailed a list of matters being heard in court the following day – or if you hate emails, you can check these lists online if you search for court lists and the relevant court – this will give you an idea of what level, court number and the time that matters are being heard if you want to go along and listen.
what happens after PLT?
Once you finish PLT and you get your certificate of completion, the next step is applying for admission. You have to pay a filing fee to the Supreme Court Registry which at the moment is $71.65 in order to apply for admission. This application includes a whole bunch of forms – a form 9, form 7, 3 x form 8’s, a copy of your official academic transcript, a copy of your law degree, a copy of your completion certificate from PLT and any supporting disclosure documents you may need to include. You will need supporting disclosure documents where you have parking fines, speeding fines, other traffic offences, a criminal history, where you have been overpaid by Centrelink, if you have committed academic misconduct, etc. So for me, I have two old speeding fines so I had to pay a $24 fee to get a copy of this to include with my application. Your application must be made at least 28 days prior to your admission date. Admission dates are listed on the Queensland Courts website. After your application, you also need to publish an advertisement in the Queensland Law Reporter at least 14 days but not more than 28 days before your admission date. At the moment, this advertisement costs just over $160. The next step is to prepare an affidavit of compliance which is filed in the Supreme Court Registry at least 14 days prior to your admission date. You are also required to pay $633 at the time of filing. Then (hopefully) you will be issued with a Form 22 certificate of recommendation from the Board. This means that you will be admitted! You will then need to check the daily court list (as I mentioned above) for the Supreme Court to find out what time your admission will be on your specified date – this will not be available until close of business the day prior to your admission. It is therefore important that you keep the day free, and advise your family and friends of this – as well as ensure that your mover is available for the day.
what is a mover?
In order to be admitted, you will need a lawyer to move your admission. In order to be a mover you must hold a current practising certificate, which means they can be a lawyer, barrister or judge. During admission ceremonies, admissions are organised based on the seniority of your mover and your GPA. So the more senior your mover and the higher your GPA – the closer you will be to the front of the list for your admission session. You need to ask someone to be your mover, and I would strongly recommend that you put some effort into this – after all, you are asking a lawyer to take time out of their busy schedule to help you. I asked my mover, Clarissa Rayward, by making confetti helium balloons with the question ‘Will you be my mover?’ in a box which she opened. A friend of mine came up with a pun based way of asking someone to be their mover. It doesn’t have to be expensive – but put some thought and care into it! It is also customary to buy your mover a thank you gift on your admission day – I hear this is often alcohol and chocolates, but I will make my gift personal and I think if you know your mover well, it is always better to put some thought into a gift.
I hope that helps answer any questions you may have about life after law school – if you have any questions I haven’t answered, please feel free to contact me on social media – I’m more than happy to help and there is never a silly question!