Victoria Legal Aid

Trial Counsel Development Program

The Trial Counsel Development Program provides training opportunities to selected junior counsel by partnering them with senior trial advocates in criminal trials.

About the program

The Trial Counsel Development Program is designed to deliver unique training opportunities to selected junior counsel by partnering them with senior trial advocates in criminal trials each year. The program commenced in July 2011.

The program aims to develop a steady pool of quality advocates at the Junior Bar and ensure that legally aided clients are able to access skilled and experienced trial counsel.

This program is part of a range of initiatives developed through our work with the Victorian Bar, Office of Public Prosecutions, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Magistrates’ Court, County Court, Supreme Court, private profession and Department of Justice and Community Safety to tackle the causes and symptoms of delays to justice.

Selection for the 2024 program is now complete. Applications for the 2025 intake will open later in 2024.

Counsel in the program

Lead counsel

There are approximately 50 senior advocates, comprising a mix of senior juniors and silks, participating as lead counsel in the program.

See lead counselExternal Link for a list of current participants and other information.

Junior counsel

In 2024, 15 junior counsel are participating in the program. Each can expect to undertake up to three trials under the direct tutelage of lead counsel. We fully fund the brief fees for junior counsel.

See junior counselExternal Link for a list of current participants and other information.


This program relies on solicitors on the section 29A panelsExternal Link to identify appropriate trials early. Suitable trials are those which:

  • are likely to run to trial and are unlikely to resolve
  • do not exceed 10 trial day(s)
  • are not necessarily complex trials
  • would not ordinarily attract funding for junior counsel
  • are ready to start on their listing date.

See Identifying trials for more information, including how to apply for a grant of legal assistance.

Please note – as of 2019, trials will not be eligible for the program unless the instructing firm pays itemised disbursements directly out of ATLAS.

Subject to the availability of lead counsel, solicitors are then invited to brief lead counsel from the program in these trials. Junior counsel will be allocated in consultation with instructing solicitors after lead counsel has been briefed. This is usually done by the VLA Chambers advocates clerks determining availability of the juniors and providing a list to the instructor.

Participation in this program is completely voluntary. We urge solicitors to bring trials to us, and to work with us to ensure that junior counsel get the training and appearance opportunities they need. We strongly believe that collaboration between the Trial Counsel Development Program and instructing firms is enriching and improving the quality of trial advocacy in Victorian courts.

Key selection criteria

You must address the following key selection criteria:

  • Demonstrated interest in developing a career as a criminal law trial advocate, particularly as defence counsel promoting social justice and the protection of human rights.
  • Thorough knowledge and experience in the practice of criminal law, particularly as an advocate in indictable and contested matters, under both state and federal legislation.
  • Thorough knowledge and understanding of the laws of evidence and criminal procedure.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, including the ability to liaise and negotiate with prosecutorial authorities, police, welfare and other agencies along with the ability to work both independently and as part of a legal team, the ability to communicate effectively with clients who are from culturally diverse backgrounds are socially and economically disadvantaged, and/or have complex needs.
  • Commitment to developing your legal and advocacy skills through active participation in criminal trials, and a willingness to engage in an effective and self-reflective mentoring relationship with lead counsel.

Contact us

For more information, please email or contact:

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 05 February 2024

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