Acknowledging the Impact of the Trial Counsel Development Program

Acknowledging the Impact of the Trial Counsel Development Program

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Tim Marsh and Dr Matt Collins
L–R: Victoria Legal Aid Chief Counsel Tim Marsh and President of the Victorian Bar Dr Matt Collins

Legal advocates from both sides of the bar table gathered to celebrate seven years of a training program that has strengthened advocacy for legally aided clients and improved the health of the bar as a whole.

The Victorian Bar together with Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) hosted the Trial Counsel Development Program drinks last week.

'This is a very important initiative of VLA, directed at training and mentoring junior counsel to ensure they can provide representation. The Trial Counsel Development Program, from the Bar’s perspective, has been a tremendous success,' said the President of the Victorian Bar Dr Matt Collins QC.

VLA developed the Trial Counsel Development Program (TCDP) in 2011 to deliver on-the-job training and mentoring to selected Junior Counsel at the Victorian Bar by partnering them with senior trial advocates in criminal trials each year.

The TCDP provides junior counsel with advocacy and cross-examination training, ‘Meet the judges’ events and other development opportunities. It also gives participants a chance to do meaningful work on criminal trials and to conduct realistic moots at the end of the program – a further chance for participants to hone their skills and receive feedback.

L-R: Her Honour Lisa Hannan, VLA Board member Jo Kirby, CEO Victorian Bar Sarah Fregon, VLA Managing Director Bevan Warner
L–R: Her Honour Judge Lisa Hannan, VLA Board member Jo Kirby, CEO Victorian Bar Sarah Fregon, VLA Managing Director Bevan Warner

‘This $1.5 million investment has resulted in 28 female barristers and 12 male junior barristers sharing in 132 County Court and 33 Supreme Court trial opportunities, to learn and practice their craft, of which 77 ran to verdict before a jury. Without the Trial Counsel Development Program these experiences would not have existed,’ said VLA Managing Director Bevan Warner.

‘Members of the Victorian Bar run close to 90 per cent of legally aided trials in superior courts. The strength of the Junior Bar is vital for the long-term health of legal aid in this state and most importantly the clients we serve. It is an absolute no-brainer that we should invest in securing well rounded trial counsel for the future and that is what we have done,’ said Bevan.

Speaking at the event, VLA Chief Counsel Tim Marsh highlighted the high female representation in the program ‘[O]ur experience in selecting participants for the program confirmed that men and women with comparable skills and experience face different obstacles and opportunities as they develop their advocacy careers. VLA remains committed to reducing some of the barriers that women face in the profession, this program being just a small part.’

He noted that many barristers who had completed the program had gone on to become tenacious trial advocates; ‘To hear that they are now … appearing in difficult cases on their own is a genuinely satisfying outcome of this program. To the extent that the TCDP has been able to help you reach your potential and achieve your goals, I’m glad we were able to assist,’ said Tim.

Zoe Broughton Chambers, Dan Nicholson, Her Honour Wendy Wilmoth, and His Honour Michael O’Connell
L–R: ​Her Honour Wendy Wilmoth, Acting Executive Director of Criminal Law Services Dan Nicholson, VLA Public Defender Zoe Broughton and His Honour Michael O’Connell

Zoe Broughton was selected as a junior in the Program in 2011. She now enjoys a strong trial practice as a public defender in VLA Chambers, which she joined in 2014.

'The Trial Counsel Development Program gave me the chance to work with the very personifications of brilliance at the Victorian Bar; Julian McMahon SC, Michael O’Connell SC, Justin Hannebery, Ian Hill QC and Saul Holt QC. The trials ranged from murder to people smuggling to sexual assault. Not only were they excellent and patient mentors, I also learnt a great deal from exposure to the reasoning behind their forensic decisions and in observation of their advocacy,' said Zoe.

More information​

Read more about the Trial Counsel Development Program.

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