Nicholas van Hattem reflects on the 2019 Piddington PLT year.
Shaping the beginning of a professional career gives us an opportunity to develop them in the best traditions of our profession: collegiate, ethical and technically adept.
Monday 4 November 2019 marked the admission of the 2019 cohort of the Piddington PLT graduates.
Every admission ceremony is unique. We see pride in the newly admitted lawyers and their moving counsel. Judicial officers oversee an important and traditional process. Family members look on seeing the culmination of years of hard work in their loved ones.
Admission days are one of the clearest examples of the legal profession as a community. We are not merely a collection of individuals who happen to be in the same line of work
Every admission day is special. The admission day on 4 November 2019 will always be particularly special for me. That day marked the first day of legal practice of the first new lawyers Piddington has trained since receiving the Legal Practice Board’s approval as a standalone PLT provider.
The responsibility of delivering practical legal training is great. Shaping the beginning of a professional career gives us an opportunity to develop them in the best traditions of our profession: collegiate, ethical and technically adept.
Now as officers of the court, we know that Piddington PLT graduates will hold themselves to these high standards. We have been so impressed by the graduates
Many people are involved in delivering Piddington PLT. Leading lawyers across Western Australian helped develop our original program, and they have been generous in sharing their experience throughout this year.
Aaron McDonald developed a hands-on civil litigation module, which provided our graduates with useful precedents they can keep for their own practices. Chris Pearce’s commercial law module delivered the national competency standards through the prism of a millennial start up social enterprise. Shannon Davies’ property law module was intensely practical, including the incorporation of online property conveyancing training. Sunili Govinnage created an administrative law module that focused on problem solving and access to justice. It’s hard to imagine 45 minutes with more takeaways than Jenny Thornton’s lecture on how to be a useful graduate on day one. It’s impossible to plan five days with more criminal law luminaries than Adam Ebell’s July intensive.
The Hon John Chaney, the Hon Christine Wheeler and A/Prof Kate Offer contributed important guidance to the pedagogy and overall course design. A key part of that design, that the course is spread over ten months, comes from my father Peter van Hattem SC. He corrected my initial thought that grads could easily do hours of course work after a full workday. The end result is that the Piddington course more closely resembles a year of articled clerkship rather than some of the shorter alternatives. That is one of our key advantages.
The graduates in 2019 have been seen the best of our profession, with presentations and candid conversations, particularly on ethics, by judicial officers, senior counsel and lawyers throughout the profession.
We are grateful for the contributions from the Hon Justice Edelman, the Hon President of Appeal Buss and the Hon Justice of Appeal Beech, all Justices of the Perth Registry of the Federal Court, the Hon Justice Vaughan, the Hon Justice Archer, the Hon Justice Pritchard, his Honour Judge Levy SC, his Honour Judge Quail, his Honour Judge Gething, Registrars of the Supreme Court, Members of the SAT, Deputy Chief Magistrate Woods’ “Meet the Magistrates” Panel, the 2018 Senior Counsel appointees, so many members of the Bar including the Hon John Gilmour QC, Tim Hammond, Anthony Papamatheos, David Jones, Phillipa Honey and Jennifer Solliss. Our cohort was grateful to hear from speakers from the Legal Practice Board and senior solicitors including Debora Milton, Catriona Macleod, Lital Hymans, Jasmine Rhodes and Sophie van Hattem. We are grateful to all our learned friends who contributed to our 2019 syllabus.
Sunili Govinnage, who came on in 2019 as the Course Manager, has greatly helped the development of the course through her passion for peer-support and collaboration, and considerable experience across many practice areas from her work in the community legal sector and top tier law firms. Sunili’s huge contributions this year have been significantly responsible for the cohort’s success and the course’s strength.
Anna Courtman continues to support Piddington PLT several years after being one of our graduates. Anna has resolved multiple unforeseen challenges for the course with her characteristic grace, humility and effectiveness. People who ask me how I do everything generally haven’t met Anna.
In addition to the finest Piddingon social media moments, in 2019 Conrad Liveris has also helped with important work supporting Piddington PLT, particularly when it comes to recruitment of new graduates and new instructors and sharing the message of Piddington PLT to new jurisdictions.
We are also very grateful for the work of event officers Jesse D’Sylva and Kathryn Bekker. The collegiate evenings following our monthly masterclasses are a key feature of the course.
We are also very grateful to the organisations that have provided full and partial scholarships to our graduates in 2019: being the Christine Wheeler scholarships (funded by Piddington), two scholarships funded by the Criminal Lawyers Association and a Law Access scholarship funded by the McCusker Foundation. We are also grateful to the English Family Fund and Sydney Myer Foundation, which provided funding to help establish the original PJP.
Our biggest thanks must go to the great community legal sector of Western Australia who are at the coalface of justice every day. We are constantly inspired by their commitment to the administration of justice and the highest standards of ethical practice.
This year we have had graduates with Fremantle CLC, Tenancy WA, The Humanitarian Group, Women’s Law Centre, Mental Health Law Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service, Law Access, Peel CLC and the Wheatbelt CLC. We are hopeful that in 2020 we will also work with more regional offices including the Albany CLC, South West CLC and regional offices of Legal Aid WA.
In 2019 we have seen a record number of private firms join in Piddington PLT to support their graduate lawyers. Their commitment to the course has been a great source of confidence. Thanks to Pragma Legal, Clayton Utz, MDC Legal, Glen McLeod Legal, FourLion Legal, Hale Legal and Kitto and Kitto. We are also excited to be speaking with other private firms who may join us in 2020.
The Committee of The Piddington Society, especially our chair the Hon John Chaney SC, Convenor Nick Malone and Treasurer Rhys Meakins, has given technical and moral support of the course. I’m very grateful for the Committee’s support of Piddington PLT as core business of Piddington over the past four years.
I have a deep thanks for the profession itself who has been integral in this course. Many lawyers have given their time to the course to instruct the graduates, have offered counsel and advice to us and have been willing us on.
In challenging moments, it is assuring to know that the profession wants Piddington PLT to succeed, and supports a program which focuses on modern skills, ethics and collegiality.
The Piddington PLT graduates themselves are an outstanding cohort. In 2019 they have thrived across the profession, with some working for judges, in the regions, continuing with community legal centres and forging their careers in private practice. They have been a source of support for each other, and an inspiration for all of us involved in delivering this course.
Every early November, when admissions day comes around, I am reminded of all the best traditions of our profession: our shared commitment to practice to the best of our ability, our old colleagues and our brand-new ones.
Welcome to the profession.
May we all do our best.
Nicholas van Hattem is the Director of Piddington PLT and a barrister at Francis Burt Chambers.