As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Lawyers Practice Manual Victoria we celebrate the rich history of the service and the tenets upon which it was founded as a practical, authoritative and responsive guidance tool for lawyers and students. Professor Adrian Evans (Monash Law Faculty, a former Executive Director of Springvale Legal Service/Springvale Monash Legal Service and a member of the Lawyers Practice Manual Victoria Editorial Committee) provides insight into the history of the service below.
The Lawyers Practice Manual Victoria (LPM Vic) was an early 1980s’ brainchild of four legal innovators connected to the then Springvale Legal Service (SLS), a community legal centre in Melbourne that had been operating a clinic for Monash University Law School since 1975. Simon Smith, Sue Campbell, Guy Powles and Maureen Tehan either taught in the clinic or lectured in the law school. They realised that law students who dealt with real cases in the clinic were in the same situation as new lawyers: they knew very little about anything practical in the law. The simple but essential tasks of how to interview, how to write a legal letter, how to issue a summons or draft a brief to counsel, were among hundreds of “manual” tasks involved in being a lawyer that were a complete mystery to most students.
The “Fab-Four” knew they could teach each new student the same item of practical knowledge time and time again, but would it not be more efficient to put everything down once, on paper (it was July 1985 when the LPM Vic was launched!), and then set the students a series of research tasks? SLS was a very busy clinic, perhaps the largest in the country at that time and still among the largest five today, and it was common sense to create the LPM Vic to make it possible to teach the Monash students without teacher burnout. Building on the pioneer work of the Lawyers Practice Manual New South Wales (a then new publication by The Law Book Company, the ancestors of Thomson Reuters, in conjunction with Redfern Legal Centre), the LPM Vic was born.
Since its inception the LPM Vic has been developed to include over 60 different subject areas, streamed into 18 practice sections, with pro bono contributors and commentators, overseen by a sub-committee of the now Springvale Monash Legal Service (SMLS) Board. Regular updates to the service, produced in ongoing cooperation with Thomson Reuters, help to keep a 30-year legal education tool contemporary and relevant to the practice needs of the widest range of lawyers and students.