I chose to do the ANU Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) because it allowed me to complete it while I work full-time.
The ANU GDLP requires you to do a five-day introductory intensive (an excellent and well coordinated introduction to the course), a 16-week online ‘legal firm simulation’, at least two online electives and at least 20 days of legal practical experience (LPE). If you opt for 20 days of legal work, you must do five electives; 40 days gets you four electives; 60 brings you down to three and 80 is two.
If you have done any legal work prior to enrolling in the GDLP, it’s likely that you can get retrospective credit for it towards your LPE, provided you completed it within the last three years (and there are some other rules, like frequency of work, hours worked, type of work etc.,).
The online ‘legal firm simulation’, called the Professional Practice Core (PPC), takes up two university terms of your time. It runs in an online environment, with an ‘office email’, ‘contacts’, ‘clients’ and your tutors, who can be meaner than your average university tutor, because they play the role of ‘firm partner’. Working with three others (who you probably grouped up with at the five-day introductory intensive), you complete conveyances, provide legal advice, negotiate contract terms, ‘attend’ interlocutory hearings, reflect on ethics and your personal values, and other fun things. At times it can be pretty demanding, with quick turnover on tasks, last-minute additional information and a relentless onslaught of tiring emails from fake clients and fake bosses demanding fake results.
The electives are not very difficult. Although reading beyond the course materials is suggested, it is certainly not necessary to be Competent or even better (you are either ‘Not Yet Competent’, ‘Competent’ or you have managed a ‘High Level Performance’). The assessment is far easier than at law school and the information you need to complete it is all provided. Some electives require more time than others, but for the most part, they involve two or three pieces of assessment over an eight-week period and generally consist of making applications to courts, ‘attending’ court and writing long letters of advice. That said, if you do enroll in a couple at once, while you’re in the middle of the PPC and you work all week, you will probably find yourself in a couple of hairy situations, but nothing you can’t work through with a bit of perseverance and string of boring weekends.
I would recommend the GDLP. I have nothing to compare it to, but without any dramas in my experience, good feedback and support from staff, good structure and a relatively painless online setting, it is a great path to admission, particularly if your other commitments restrict you to studying in the evenings and on weekends.