Litigation and Estate Practice is one such subject in the Faculty of Law, with requirements set by the Legal Profession Admission Board of NSW. It’s one of the final steps on the path from lawling (an adorable new meme-ready phrase I’ve coined for ‘law student’), to lawyer.

I recently chatted with Des Finegan, co-ordinator of the Practical Legal Training subject Litigation and Estate Practice, to talk about the class.

Disclaimer: I may have been heavily under the influence of seven seasons of The Good Wife* and a recent binge of The Good Fight**.


Des, what happens in your subject?

In Litigation and Estate Practice students do practical exercises and develop skills, with an emphasis on how to do legal tasks – on the day-to-day application of their legal learning.

There are three components to it: civil litigation practice, a wills and estates component, and an option of doing either family law, or criminal law.

How do you bridge the gap between the classroom and actual legal practice?

As far as possible we try to make the subject feel ‘real world’ and realistic. Students are at all times doing real world exercises. Our assessments and tasks are based on our actual experiences.

Each week their activities are progressively developed, to compound their skills and build up experience. For example, with a civil litigation matter, they’ll start with taking instructions from a client; then as the weeks progress they’ll commence proceedings on their client’s behalf, go through interlocutory steps, and then the procedural steps to prepare their case to a stage where it’s ready to appear in the courtroom.

That may finish by either having a hearing in court, or it might result in an agreed settlement of the dispute.

Ah, the legendary trial courtroom. How does that work?

Our trial courtrooms are assessments held in a realistic setting. We have two spaces permanently set up as courtrooms here on campus. Outside solicitors and barristers come in and sit as judges – all of our guest judges are current day practitioners, so there’s an added level of authenticity, and they bring direct and relevant experience to their role.

We’re fortunate enough to have some reliable regulars who will come in and participate, though we’re always on the lookout for new potential partners. Those relationships are really important for the success of the program.

Great. So to summarise, you connect legal theory with legal practice through scaffolded learning design based on casework, including real-world scenarios and roleplay assessment?

That’s right.

Many of our students are also working in law firms on a day-to-day basis, applying their learning as they progress through the course. We encourage that, and offer evening classes at 6pm so they can participate after their day’s work.

What’s the feedback from students like?

They really enjoy it because it gives application to all of their undergraduate studies – this is where they confront the real world, and many of them get to apply their skills on a day-to-day basis. They really like the change from theoretical law into applied law.

Interestingly, we hear from many of them that they wish they had these experiences in first year at the outset of their courses, as the practical, applied processes gives more meaning to the theory.


Thanks Des!


– Phil


*I’m also super into The Good Place. No relation.
**How sizzling is the Lucca/state attorney guy combo? It’s up there on the same dizzying level as Kalinda/everyone.***
***Look, while we’re on it, does anyone else find it weird that the potential future princess of Australia was Rachel from Suits? They made her character kind of insufferable, but then she never stood a chance in the radiant glow of Jessica, Donna, Louis and Harvey (in that order).

Join the discussion