APLEC “Australasian Professional Legal Education Council” as it was known then was formed in the mid 1970’s as an informal meeting of the senior staff involved in the early Professional Legal Training Courses (PLT). In Australia, the first PLT Course was the Legal Workshop at the Australian National University followed closely by the Leo Cussen Institute in Melbourne and the College of Law in Sydney.
The introduction of PLT Courses was largely a response to the lack of available places for Articled Clerks and concern as to the quality of the Articles experience.
As the debate around the continuation of Articles of Clerkship continued, further PLT Courses were established in Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and, subsequently in Fiji and Hong Kong. At the same time, similar moves were taking place in Canada and the UK.
As the number of PLT Courses increased, the need for PLT staff, (many of whom had come from legal practice rather than academia), to gain and improve their teaching skills was recognised. APLEC started to run an annual Conference, initially in conjunction with the Continuing Legal Education Association of Australasia, which provided a professional development forum for PLT teachers as well as providing a valuable opportunity for staff to exchange ideas and share materials. In the ‘early days’ of APLEC there was ready sharing of intellectual property amongst the small group of members.
By the 1990’s, APLEC had become an established organisation and with a strong focus on the ‘profession’ of PLT. In 1996, APLEC ran the first International Conference for PLT providers, hosted by the College of Law in Sydney. That Conference was a great success and drew strong support from international speakers. Many of the papers presented at that Conference are still referred to.
In the late 1990’s APLEC recognised the need for PLT Courses to establish a recognised curriculum and to identify measures to ensure the quality of the training provided to PLT graduates. At that stage APLEC embarked on the drafting of National Competency Standards for Entry Level Lawyers. The Competency Standards were subsequently adopted by the Law Admissions Consultative Committee in Australia and now provide the basis of accreditation of content for all PLT courses in Australia. The Competency Standards have also been used as a guide in several international jurisdictions.
Following the development of the National Competency Standards APLEC developed Accreditation Standards for PLT Courses. This project was also taken up by Admitting Authorities so that there is now a set of Uniform Accreditation Standards for new PLT Courses and for those seeking re-accreditation.
APLEC has matured as an organisation since its informal beginnings and now has 18 members throughout Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. APLEC is a regular contributor to the ongoing debate around legal educational standards and admission criteria.
APLEC was incorporated under the name Australasian Professional Legal Education Community Ltd on 2nd of June 2023.