Public Interest Law Careers Guide - Lawyers in the Victorian Public Service
By George Butman, Manager, Projects and Performance, Strategic Policy and Legislative Operations, Department of Justice
There is a broad range of career opportunities in the Victorian Public Service (VPS) for people with legal qualifications. As well as the organisations listed in this guide, you should consider the public sector departments and related agencies not specifically outlined. The key operating divisions and related agencies can be viewed on the various Victorian departments' organisation charts. In addition, employment opportunities exist in the Commonwealth and other State and Territory public sectors.
Positions for people with legal qualifications include policy officers who advise on legal policy, law reform and current legal issues. In addition, people with legal qualifications work on planning issues, contracts, federal/state relations and joint policy development committees, constitutional issues among many others. In the public service, advice is provided to senior departmental executives and Ministers. Ministers and the Government ultimately decide what policies to adopt and what action to take. The Department of Justice, as one of the Victorian Government's central departments, is also frequently consulted by other Victorian government departments in relation to their proposals
Legal advice is often more useful and practical if legal qualifications are supplemented with other skills. Acquiring project, contract, communication or stakeholder management, customer service, economic analysis, and policy development skills should be considered. It might be your skills in these areas, rather than your legal qualifications by themselves, that make you an attractive prospect for employment in the VPS.
The Department of Justice provides a lot of in house legal advice. The type of Legal Policy advice required reflects political priorities and the social issues of the day. Some areas such as criminal, civil and courts policy stay as units over time. Others develop in response to particular need. A look at the composition of the Strategic Policy and Legislation division in the organisational chart of the Department of Justice shows policy units working on Civil Law, Criminal Law, Police and Courts policy. This division also includes the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, and more specialised policy units relating to particular initiatives or issues of the day such as Integrity Reform Implementation (establishment of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, the Public Interest Monitor, the Victorian Inspectorate and the Freedom of Information Commission), Native Title, Human Rights, and the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
If you look at the list of Justice Statutory Entities outlined you will see many organisations that support the justice system with services such as law reform and policy advice, dispute resolution, legal assistance, policing, courts and tribunals, equal opportunities and human rights, freedom of information and forensic medicine.