Building legal knowledge in the APS

AGS is widely recognised as the leading provider of training for government lawyers. We offer a comprehensive range of training courses, forums and other events to help clients and the Commonwealth public service generally stay abreast of legal issues.

Our general training events are open to all government employees, while our agency-specific training focuses on the particular operational concerns of individual clients, in locations best suited to their needs.

Some of the topics our courses cover include administrative law, statutory interpretation, the Commonwealth financial framework, constitutional issues in program design, Code of Conduct investigations, decision-making, delegations and authorisations, legal advice-writing, government contracting, freedom of information and privacy.

A feature of our training courses is the use of small-group interactive teaching, where clients are able to ask a lot of questions and do interactive exercises to enhance their learning outcomes. The course presenters are AGS lawyers with a great depth of knowledge of the government environment.

This year we increased our training output and added new courses to our offerings. We delivered courses, forums and Government Law Groups in 60 different subject areas in Canberra and our regional offices. We trained or presented to almost 3,500 participants from various government agencies at approximately 160 sessions.

All the courses and forums were well attended – particularly those concerning the PGPA Act, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013(PID Act) and employment law issues.

Highlights of our forums and Government Law Group sessions included:

  • the 10th annual Property and Infrastructure Forum in August 2014, attended by 50 clients
  • the Employment Law Forum in Canberra in October, which attracted a record attendance of 182 HR and legal officers from 75 agencies
  • the migration client forum in Canberra in October, which had its highest ever attendance of 92 people
  • the Administrative Law Forum in Canberra in November, attended by 158 AGS clients from 27 agencies. Justice Debbie Mortimer of the Federal Court opened the forum and Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the US Court of Appeal gave the keynote address.
  • an FOI practitioner forum in Melbourne in November had 32 attendees, and one in Canberra in December had 103 attendees
  • our first Information Technology Forum was held in February, with the topic 'Cloud, contracts and consequences'. Places sold out, with 36 client agencies represented among the 98 attendees.
  • Tom Howe PSM QC and Craig Rawson presented a Government Law Group seminar in Canberra in May about the long-running ASADA investigation of the Essendon supplements program – more than 150 clients attended
  • AGS Commercial and the Department of Finance presented a Government Law Group seminar on Commonwealth indemnities to around 180 clients in Canberra in May.

All our training and forums meet the requirements for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or Continuing Legal Education (CLE) points. For a full list of forums and Government Law Group sessions, see the appendix on page 86.

Lawyer development program

The program was refreshed this year and now provides a comprehensive learning framework underpinned by the AGS performance management process which aims to develop lawyers in the Lawyer classification with the capabilities required of a Senior Lawyer.

Legal support program

The roll-out of the Legal Support Program was completed in July 2014. Legal Support Managers conducted briefing sessions for legal support staff and outlined the improvements that were introduced, including new roles and responsibilities within existing legal support structure, national legal support orientation program and training and development.

Graduate and clerk programs

Applications for AGS's graduate program continue to increase each year. Over 700 applications were received for the 2016
graduate program. This year short-listed applicants undertook a deductive reasoning test from which 40 applicants were invited for
interview. First-round offers were accepted for 17 graduate positions (including 2 Indigenous positions) for the 2016 graduate program.

The winter clerk program received extremely positive feedback from AGS supervisors and clerks. This year, 12 clerks, including an Indigenous student, participated in the program.

AGS Alumni

Our alumni program, established in 2012 to keep AGS in touch with former employees, continued successfully with events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney. Issues of the Alumni newsletter were distributed to members in November 2014 and April 2015.

The alumni program provides an opportunity to enhance contact and friendships with former colleagues, develop useful business networks, foster career development and mentoring, and promote AGS's profile within the legal profession. At the end of the year the program had 926 members.

This is an extract from the 2014–15 AGS annual report