by Phoebe Churches
Unlike Mike Ross,* I am an Australian Legal Practitioner, fully admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria and the holder of a current Victorian practicing certificate. However it wasn’t always so.
It was only at the beginning of last year in fact that I finally finished my Practical Legal Training and scraped up the (not inconsiderable amount of) cash for my admission fees and membership of the Supreme Court Library. Then came the paperwork. If someone tells you there is quite a lot of paperwork to organise for Admission, they really aren’t kidding. There is a lot.
I started off pretty cocky, filling out my Notice of Intention to Apply for Admission and schlepping down to the Board of Examiners to lodge it. Naturally everything needs to be done in person. Oh, and between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. No, only on week days. Although if it’s busy, well…why not come back later. But NOT TOO LATE, cripes this is the last day! Just stand in line and forget going back to the office now.
So the nice woman at the Board of Examiners checks my Notice, finds it is set out acceptably in conformance with Schedule 5 and then I’m directed over the road to the back of the old Supreme Court. Oh good, it’s a court so I have to brave security scans of my crumpler bag and have my bike tyre confiscated as a dangerous weapon. Oh well, small price to pay – just so I can go and pin my Notice up on the board. My, it looks so good among the 3000 other flapping Notices festooned across every pinnable surface.
Take a breath – that was the easy part.
The next few months involve me trying to organise my law school to send my qualifications directly to the Board of Examiners. This is remarkably difficult now in the age where universities do not give direct contact numbers for anyone who can help you do anything. Hours can be spent waiting in the phone queue of the main info line just so you can speak to someone who doesn’t have a clue what you are asking about. ‘Send your transcript to who?’ ‘Examiners – what, staff in the law school?’ NOOOOOOOOO. Wait…no never mind. Look is there anyone else there who I can speak to? Call again later? Deep sigh.
Then there is the chasing of conduct reports from every tertiary institution at which I have studied. That’s quite a few. They don’t have direct contact numbers for anyone either. More waiting in phone queues ensues.
Even after all of this, plus emails sent to confirm, and deadlines mentioned again and again – when I present to the Board of Examiners to personally lodge my Affidavit of Disclosure and my two Character Affidavits – they tell me one of my conduct reports has still not arrived. Ugh. Oh, and this affidavit is no good – you need to put that they are a JP and therefore an authorised person to make the Affidavit of Character. See you again soon!
OK – now here are my affidavits – all ready to go. There are only days left to the deadline. Great, no queue at the Board of Examiners. Here you go. Wait. She points to the bottom of both of my Affidavits of Character. When they were signed, the deponents didn’t specify whether they had sworn or affirmed. There is a brief, still moment where her eyes meet mine and we both know what I am thinking. She can see me weighing the option of asking if we can just cross one of those words out now. Sworn/Affirmed. Just one small stroke of the pen. Here, now, in the quiet back office of the Board of Examiners. She can see that thought take shape in my mind. I see her reading it on my face and then – I let that thought-bubble burst and stand up and walk out.
On the last possible day to file these documents – finally they pass muster. All of my conduct reports have shown up and my file is in order. I almost can’t believe it. Several months later I am parting with my hard earned, getting not much change from a grand, paying my dues and picking up my guest tickets for the Admission Ceremony. It is now the end of the year.
One last nagging thought – the mover of my admission needs to be fully frocked up in court garb on the day. It seemed impossible to hope that she might have a jabot tucked away in her wardrobe. Yeah. No.
With days to go, I am unsurprised to find all places in Melbourne who might rent court kit are completely out. Thank the founding fathers I know a barrister! She so generously hands over wig, waistcoat and cape. Oh, and the jabot – don’t want to forget that.
It seems like only 112 years ago that the very first sitting of the High Court of Australia unfolded in the Banco Court room of the current Victorian Supreme Court. In fact it was 112 years ago and the Banco Court is still infused with the musty gravitas of that occasion. It is also way too small and very hot and uncomfortable in my new Hugo Boss suit in the tight company of about 700 of my closest legal peers.
My admission is moved by a solicitor work mate. Kitted up in borrowed garb – she looks the part. She stands when the Chief Justice asks if ‘Phoebe Churches is in the Court today’. Of course I am – as if I’d miss this excitement! She casually leans into the microphone and barks ‘May it please the Court, I appear to move that Phoebe Churches be admitted to the legal profession as an Australian Lawyer and as an officer of this Honourable Court and I so move on the certificate and recommendation of the Board of Examiners’. Well, she didn’t just appear to move it, it actually really happened!
Approximately 30 minutes later, we filed from the Banco Court through a small ante-chamber where we were handed our Certificates of Admission and we signed the dusty bar roll. So, now I am admitted to the legal profession as a ‘barrister and solicitor and officer of the Supreme Court of Victoria’. This officially makes me an Australian Lawyer. Still, I cannot practice law without one – final – step.
At the beginning of this year my Practicing Certificate arrived in the post – that makes me a “Australian Legal Practitioner” and officially allowed to practice law. Phew. That was a lot of hoops and hurdles.
My first work as a newly minted Australian Legal Practitioner – certifying documents. Lots of them. And Statutory Declarations. So. Many. Stat Decs. Form an orderly queue.
At least when it comes to witnessing my first affidavit I will know I need to check if they are swearing or affirming.