The Benefits of Training Lawyers
Bill Doogue is one of the Directors of Doogue + George and is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist ever since 1998. He has a Law Institute of Victoria Service Award and is currently ranked by Doyle’s Guide as one of Australia’s 5 pre-eminent criminal lawyers. Bill is also on the LIV Accreditation Board that oversees the specialisation program.
Sophie is a Partner, In-House Counsel, and an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist at Doogue + George. She specialises in serious indictable criminal matters and has appeared before investigative bodies such as Royal Commission, IBAC and VCAT. Before joining the firm, Sophie was a defence advocate and manager in the criminal section of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin for several years.
Criminal defence is a challenging area of the law to gain experience and practice.
Our role as criminal defence lawyers requires that we are ready to respond to complex legal and factual circumstances any time we answer a call, attend a conference, or appear in a courtroom. We meet with individuals with varied backgrounds and unique personal circumstances, some of whom we meet for the first time or repeatedly over several years. We regularly consider recent and historical statute and case law.
There are no shortcuts to becoming an experienced practitioner – it is something that takes time, years of practice and many clients and cases. It is experience in a wide variety of matters that is key to our development as effective, strategic, and persuasive practitioners. It is how we become familiar with the law and legal principles, gain interpersonal skills in dealing with a whole range of people including our clients, police, prosecutors, and the judiciary, and most importantly, develop sound forensic judgement to achieve the most favorable outcomes.
Learning these skills is hard. But there are some things that help.
- Valuing continuing professional development by attending presentations, reading articles, case law, and notifications about changes in the law.
- Collaborating by discussing cases with colleagues to navigate the best way forward, share experiences, and gain support when issues arise.
- Becoming involved in the broader profession by attending external events, forming connections, and creating a network.
At Doogue + George, we are committed to assisting our lawyers with ongoing training because we believe it is invaluable for our lawyers, our clients, and our cases. Lawyer training is one of the most effective ways we can actively assist our lawyers to gain experience in a supported way.
Training at Doogue + George begins from when a lawyer first joins our firm, with an intensive induction program designed to introduce our lawyers to all aspects of our firm and the work we do, including opportunities to shadow other lawyers at court and during client conferences, and prepare practice appearances. This year we engaged in two separate induction programs with new lawyers.
Every year we produce a schedule of ongoing training sessions that incorporates criminal procedure, principles of sentencing and evidence, and practical advocacy skills. Our sessions are held in a workshop setting either in person or online. We exchange ideas and experiences in discussions and provide an encouraging environment to participate in practical exercises.
In 2023, our sessions included:
- New client enquiries
- Police interview advice and practical exercises
- First Nations Justice – Koori Courts and considerations for bail applications
- Fact finding on a plea – issue spotting and negotiating summaries with police and prosecutors
- Evidence (relevance and prejudice)
- Tips for assisting at risk and suicidal clients
- A series on procedure including briefing counsel and colleagues, preparation for contested committals (Form 32’s) and contested hearings
- Practical tips for appearing in contested hearings
- A series on practical plea advocacy
In previous years we have engaged in a range of topics with some noted below:
- Preparing specialised pleas – commonwealth sentencing and sexual offences
- A series on ‘jury trial preparation for solicitors’
- Common evidentiary issues in family violence cases
- Appearing in diversion hearings
- Sentencing for children and youthful offenders
- How to raise and justify an ‘objection’ in a variety of evidentiary issues
- Preparing and appearing in discretionary legal applications
- Defence of mental impairment and fitness for trial
- Summary and indictable offences
- Admissibility of evidence
- Etiquette for Magistrates’ Courts appearances
- Regulatory matters (including the preparation of submissions)
There are some sessions we run annually – such as bail application training and practical plea advocacy. The rest of our schedule is planned by being responsive to the interests and needs of our lawyers and is focused on improving understanding of evidentiary and legal concepts and increasing skills and confidence. We also encourage our lawyers to share resources and information about external sessions.
We enjoy hosting sessions with external presenters. These sessions are often but not always about criminal and quasi-criminal law and are presented by experts in their area of practice. We understand that criminal law intersects with many other areas of law and enjoy engaging with practitioners who are experts in their field to enhance our practice and improve referrals.
On occasions we invite interesting people we know to attend our offices for more informal discussions about the work they do, including academics, members of the judiciary, and other practitioners.
At Doogue + George we value attending CPD sessions presented by a range of experienced and talented practitioners and legal organisations, including those presented by a number of barrister lists, particularly Foley’s List and Parnell’s Barristers. We congratulate the clerks for producing the annual CPD series that our lawyers are always encouraged to attend, and note the dates are diarised for our lawyers well in advance.
We attend conferences here in Victoria, and interstate, annually. This year we attended conferences in Darwin and Byron Bay, which build and broaden our network, throughout Victoria and jurisdictions all over Australia.
One of our esteemed colleagues, who championed our lawyer training program for many years favoured the phrase – ‘the devil is in the detail’. We recognise diligent lawyers must be skilled in managing file loads, complying with internal and court procedures, undertaking legal research, and understanding how to review evidence while alert to inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and missing information. We have set up internal structures to enhance this skill building and schedule regular meetings between lawyers and Directors and Partners who are ‘team leaders’ to discuss file management and advancement opportunities. Our lawyers also have access to online discussion forums to seek immediate assistance whenever possible.
More recently, we have turned our attention to the wellbeing of our lawyers. There is no doubt our work is highly rewarding but also demanding and stressful. We look forward to incorporating more of this support in regular wellbeing meetings in 2024.
The benefit of lawyer training is that it assists our lawyers to develop sophisticated professional skills that can be carried forward into the future. This is not only useful for our firm with business oversight considerations and the service we offer our clients – but for our lawyers as skilled legal professionals. We do what we can to enhance our lawyers’ learning over time, so that gaining experience is worthwhile and results in longevity of exceptional legal practice. It is for these reasons we value devoting significant time and resourcing to lawyer training at Doogue + George.
We publish about our training program each year as a way to hold ourselves accountable for what we aim to achieve. Also, we have found that other people join the conversation about lawyer training when we publish and suggest people or topics that help us plan our training programs. We are always happy to receive any feedback if people think we are missing topics or know about other good training opportunities.
Date Published: 22 November 2023