Lawyer trainee training reform: Advocaat.be shares concerns and seeks accessible and quality training
The Flemish Association of Students (VVS) has criticised plans to reform the professional training of trainee lawyers. Advocaat.be shares the students' concern that, in principle, the profession of lawyer should be accessible to any law graduate. Indeed, the preliminary draft law on modernising the legal profession stipulates that this professional training will take the form of a complementary study, which will precede the start of the actual trainee legal profession.
The additional study should not result in the profession being reserved only for wealthy circles
Therefore, we demand a proper social status for aspiring lawyers and will monitor the affordability of studies. There will also be due consideration for financial backing for those who are struggling
The reform was worked out by then Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. The Community Bar Associations, which are Advocaat.be and Avocats.be, support that plan but also understand the criticism of it.
However, the content, duration, modalities and cost of training have yet to be firmly established. Moreover, education is a community matter, so the plan also requires elaboration in consultation with the education cabinets on both sides of the language border. This explains why the entry into force is only foreseen for 2028. Therefore, it is too early to sound the alarm now.
Central to the reform is the quality of training for trainee lawyers so that they can be better prepared. Now, trainees have to interrupt their internships to attend classes and take bar exams. In some cases, this interferes with the handling of ongoing court cases. Lawyer trainees are also allowed from day one to perform pretty much all the tasks that experienced lawyers are allowed to take on, while they are still undergoing professional training. The Orders are convinced that there is room for improvement there.
In parallel with the introduction of the new training, the duration of the traineeship will also be shortened. In doing so, Belgium follows the example of France, where a similar system has proved successful for many years.
At the moment, the registration fee for internships is EUR 1,150. That amount corresponds to the effective cost price. It is true that the reform is expected to increase the cost of training, but it is too early to speculate on the amount each aspiring lawyer will have to pay for it.
Open and democratic access to the legal profession is central to the policy of the Orders. This concern must be balanced with the contemporary, legitimate expectation that lawyers receive appropriate and high-performance training before they start their professional activity, in the interest of litigants.
Advocaat.be is happy to enter into dialogue with the VVS on this subject.
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