The skills you learn

Skills covered during the IPLS course

Regulations established by the Council of Legal Education prescribe the skills to be taught on the PLSC and set a minimum of 455 training hours for the course. Both versions of our PLSC cover the same range of skills and knowledge for general practice, litigation practice and the trainees’ professional development. Aside from skills, the course includes training in Professional Responsibility. This element is practical and is complementary to the Ethics courses provided by the Universities.


Writing and drafting

Creating coherent, readable, precise and concise letters and documents for general practice that:

  • Meet client goals and give effect to client instructions
  • Reflect careful/critical use of precedents and conventions of form
  • Show considered application of relevant substantive law and legal principles
  • Correctly explain the legal effect of clauses

Interviewing & Advising

  • Using effective interviewing techniques to obtain instructions and provide preliminary advice, including:
  • Developing and maintaining client rapport
  • Using active and passive listening
  • Using questioning techniques that are systematic and thorough
  • Exercising sound judgment in providing explanations and advice on the law
  • Being clear in the obtaining of instructions
  • Managing risk appropriately

Problem Solving

Undertaking effective problem solving of client issues, including:

  • Identifying issues (legal and non-legal)
  • Analysing the rights and obligations of the different parties to the problem
  • Summarising and advising orally and in writing on the client’s legal position
  • Developing a plan for resolving the problem, including:
    • Listing a range of options, with a summary of their advantages and disadvantages and their potential impact on the client’s legal position
    • Advising on different methods of dispute resolution (where appropriate)
    • Developing, with the client, a viable strategy for resolving the problem


Using effective techniques when negotiating on a client’s behalf, including:

  • Strategies for gaining and disclosing information that will enhance the prospects of a settlement, yet protect one’s client
  • Techniques for recognising and responding to tactics
  • Principled bargaining skills that promote and protect one’s client’s interests


Drafting for advocacy

Drafting court documents that are effective for their purpose and which:

  • Comply in substance and form with the requirements of law and convention, including the District Court Rules and the High Court Rules.
  • Use an appropriate style and structure

Trial Preparation

Using effective techniques to analyse and evaluate mixed issues of law and fact in the criminal law context, and to devise strategies for advancing the prosecution and/or defence, including:

  • Identifying the legal elements of a criminal charge
  • Collating and evaluating the evidence available to prove each element of the charge
  • Identifying the most likely defence
  • Formulating a strategy to combat or advance the prosecution/defence


Managing a Mediation case file through to completion, including:

  • Understanding the range of possible options available for alternative dispute resolution
  • Assessing the suitability of a client’s problem for resolution by way of mediation
  • Understanding the mediation process, the processes leading up to and subsequent to a mediation, and the role of a party’s lawyer


Effective advocacy in court, including:

  • Effective speaking
  • Observing protocol
  • Presenting oral submissions
  • Presenting opening and closing addresses
  • Conducting examination in chief and re-examination
  • Conducting cross-examination
  • Dealing with objections


Personal skills

  • Using personal planning and organisational skills
  • Thinking conceptually
  • Thinking analytically
  • Exercising sound judgment in advising and strategising
  • Communicating effectively
    • Oral
    • Written
    • Listening
    • Interpreting
    • Presentation
  • Applying appropriate ethical values as practitioners
  • Exercising flexibility and adaptability

Interpersonal skills

  • Appreciating differences in culture, gender, age, beliefs, needs and values
  • Empathising with other perspectives
  • Handling difficult clients at interview
  • Demonstrating an appropriate client focus
  • Using conflict resolution skills
  • Identifying and managing group dynamics
  • Using team building skills
  • Exercising social and political awareness within workgroups

Research skills

  • Researching the law via:
    • Westlaw
    • Researching the Family Court Rules to ascertain:
      • Drafting requirements
      • Procedural requirements
      • Assembling, analysing, and extrapolating legal research for:
        • Client problem solving
        • Trial preparation

Professional responsibility

  • Values and responsibilities of the legal profession:
    • Appreciating the need to uphold certain values in professional practice
    • Understanding the Rules of Conduct and Client Care, their interpretation, and the means by which they are enforced
    • Appreciating the way the rules apply in various professional roles and contexts, and the responsibilities that can arise in those contexts.
  • NZ Law Society – understanding its roles and functions, including:
    • Regulatory / disciplinary role
    • Public service role and committee work
    • Continuing education services
    • Practitioner support role
  • Personal professional support and development
    • Developing techniques for resolving personal professional conduct dilemmas
    • Developing awareness of personal support mechanisms available to young practitioners
    • Developing commitment to the profession’s values in one’s professional life, ongoing self development in professional conduct, and life-long learning as a professional

Professional practice

  • Risk Management
    • Developing awareness of potential sources of liability for oneself and one’s employer, as a practitioner
    • Developing awareness of risk management responsibilities towards oneself, one’s employers, and one’s professional indemnifiers, and a range of risk management techniques
  • Productivity
    • Developing awareness of the principles of time recording and costing
    • Developing awareness of employer expectations concerning productivity
    • Developing trust accounting knowledge and skills, including:
      • Preparing bills of cost
      • Preparing trust account statements
      • Reconciling trust account ledgers
      • Managing disbursements
      • Receipt and cheque writing
      • Developing file management techniques