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Getting Admitted: Practical Legal Training, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and Traineeships

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Perhaps you've seen final year law students or recent graduates wandering around muttering acronyms like PLT and GDLP. At some stage every law student will discover that having a law degree does not necessarily entitle you to practice.

At the end of your degree, you may need to complete an additional course, generally known as a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), Practical Legal Training (PLT) or Practical Training Course (PTC) to qualify for admission as a lawyer. "What is this course and do I have to do it?", I hear you asking. Read on, if you dare.

These courses are intensive and involve work experience plus the completion of compulsory subjects with a practical focus. Even if you’re used to advising hypothetical clients about their options, PLT/GDLP takes it to a whole new level. Similar to a Japanese game show, you'll complete feats requiring great strength, endurance, mental fortitude and the occasional pit of molten lava. You’ll be writing letters of advice, drafting wills, negotiating settlements and practicing your client interviewing skills.

Some universities incorporate this practical training into their undergraduate law degrees and Juris Doctor courses, allowing you to avoid undertaking a second course. Students from other universities are usually able to enroll in these subjects. If your uni doesn’t offer PLT/GDLP, don’t worry. Depending on the jurisdiction you want to be admitted in, there are a few options for learning these lawyer skills. Several institutions such as ANU Legal Workshop, The College of Law and the Leo Cussen Institute offer PLT/GDLP courses.

In some states, you may also have the choice of a period of Supervised Workplace Training (also known as a Traineeship), which can be a good option if you're already working in the profession.

Important factors when deciding on the right course for you include the availability of FEE-HELP loans, but keep in mind that if you have a graduate job offer at a law firm, your employer may cover the cost of the course, and some of the larger firms provide practical legal training programs to their graduates in-house.

Other factors to consider include the length of the course (it can vary from 6-12 months minimum), attendance modes (most institutions have online study options), any workplace experience requirements, and the general administrative structure of the course. Most importantly, always read the rules for admission in your preferred jurisdiction before deciding on a course.

Good luck! You’ll be a lawyer soon enough!

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