Despite being a latecomer to law herself, Gillian Groom has always been around the law. Five of her six children have graduated from law; her father was a barrister; and her husband, former Premier of Tasmania, Ray Groom, is also a lawyer. Then in 2013, Gillian graduated in law from the University of Tasmania, more than 50 years after gaining a degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Melbourne.
In 2014 Gillian completed the ANU Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, and she recently shared her experience of the program.
“There are various options for combining GDLP study and legal placements. I chose 80 placement days and this combination worked extremely well as it enabled practical experience to be interspersed with the academic content. Personally I found this a better alternative than solid blocks of study preceded or followed by legal practice experience.
While the GDLP does follow a prescribed structure, I found it to be extremely flexible in terms of the choices of courses in areas of interest. In addition, the ANU model which involves working in “firms” within a virtual office, provided additional stimulation and accountability to others. Teamwork was integral to the program which provides an excellent basis for future legal work.
The legal ethics component of the program received special emphasis. This module addressed some very challenging aspects of professional responsibility in a way that requires experiential learning and problem solving. Such experience, with the support of firm members, seems to be a better way to comprehend ethical issues than simply reading a text book. The “Giving Voice to Values” component of the curriculum was especially beneficial.
Another outstanding aspect of the ANU GDLP was the requirement to practice effective communication skills at all times. This was an essential feature of working in a team within a virtual office space. The regular team meetings (weekly in our case) were a great tool for building trust in colleagues and learning to delegate when necessary.
While most students considering this program would have the requisite IT skills to cope fairly easily with the format, it should be noted that students with basic IT knowledge are very well supported.
I particularly enjoyed the courses which were based on the ANU campus, namely the BAP introductory workshop and, in my case, the Criminal Procedure elective. From the standpoint of an interstate student, this experience in Canberra provided a practical opportunity to identify with ANU and the staff involved in the GDLP.
Without exception, the courses were well organised and interesting, if somewhat challenging at times. All staff were friendly, approachable and offered appropriate advice and assistance.”