About the Legal Professionals Capability Set

The Legal Professionals Capability Set is intended to be used in conjunction with the 2013 NSW Public Sector Capability Framework (“Capability Framework”) to support the full range of workforce management and development activities, including:

  • role design and description
  • recruitment
  • performance management
  • learning and development, and
  • workforce planning.

The Capability Framework applies to all public sector roles, both executive and non-executive. Every role requires, at an appropriate level, all of the capabilities in the Capability Framework, including the People Management capabilities for roles responsible for managing others. 

The Legal Professionals Capability Set consists of eight capabilities that define additional knowledge, skills and abilities required for roles within the legal profession. As a guide, most legal roles would be expected to require in the range of 3-5 Legal Professionals capabilities (in addition to the core capabilities from the Capability Framework), depending on the focus of their responsibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Legal Professionals Capability Set describes specialised capabilities that are required by NSW public sector employees working in legal roles, in addition to the core capabilities from the Capability Framework that all NSW public sector employees must demonstrate and develop to progress along the career pathway.

For employees

The Legal Professionals Capability Set will provide clarity around work expectations, and help you to identify capabilities that you would like to strengthen and your development needs.

You are encouraged to discuss your development needs with your manager, using the Legal Professionals Capability Set, and to create targeted professional skills development plans consistent with your organisation’s strategic objectives and your career aspirations.

For managers

The Legal Professionals Capability set will help you to develop the selection process for an employee or contractor when filling a legal role, and to clarify role expectations. The behavioural indicators provide language that will assist you when holding discussions with employees around performance and career development.

The Legal Professionals Capability Set has been the subject of extensive consultation and collaboration with NSW Government lawyers.

It has been created through a comprehensive development process coordinated by the Public Service Commission, including:

  • extensive research on national and international legal capability frameworks
  • reference group workshops with sector subject matter experts to determine the design and key content areas for the Legal Professionals Capability Set; and
  • engaging a consultant to validate the draft capability design and content against best practice models, and to develop behavioural indicators for eight capabilities across four levels.

Each capability has a name and a descriptor stating what is covered.

Each capability can be used alone, or in combination with other capabilities. It is not intended that roles will require all capabilities from the Legal Professionals Capability Set. The specific capability mix required may be different from one role to another or from one agency to another.

The number of capabilities that apply to a role will depend on the breadth and nature of the role’s accountabilities. As a general guide most legal roles would be expected to require in the range of 3 - 5 Legal Professionals capabilities (in addition to the core capabilities from the Capability Framework).

Capability Levels

There are four levels for each capability, with each level reflecting a progressive increase in complexity and skill.

An individual may require a range of capabilities at varying levels in order to perform a role effectively. The levels in the occupation specific capability set do not correspond directly to classifications, bands or grades.

Similarly, the levels in the occupation specific capability set do not correspond directly with levels in the Capability Framework.

Behavioural Indicators

A set of statements, called behavioural indicators, illustrate the type of behaviours expected at each level for each capability.

The behavioural indicators are an indicative, rather than exhaustive, list of the knowledge, skills and abilities expected at each level. Not all of the behavioural indicators may have application to every role. Although a majority of the indicators for the level should apply:

  • there may be behaviours expected of the role that are not covered in the list
  • there may be some indicators in the list that are not relevant for a particular role.

To determine the appropriate capability level for a particular role:

  • read the list of behavioural indicators for each level holistically, and identify the level that is the best fit for the role
  • exercise judgement in deciding which behavioural indicators are important for recruitment and performance assessment, and which indicators are not relevant.

For example, the Legal Drafting capability includes a behavioural indicator relating to providing professional supervision at Level 3 and at Level 4. Some legal roles will require Legal Drafting at Level 3 or Level 4, but may not have professional supervision responsibilities. In that case, while the supervision behavioural indicator remains in the Capability Set as a behavioural indicator for the level, it need not be applied to these roles.

Qualifications and other role requirements

The Legal Professionals Capability Set describes behaviours but does not specify qualifications or practising certificate conditions.

If a qualification or professional membership is an essential requirement for a role, this remains as a pre-requisite for employment, and should be incorporated into the “Essential requirements” section of the role description, and the recruitment process.

The capabilities to be applied to a role will form the basis for assessment processes in filling the role, and a reference point for learning and development activities.

The person who performs the role may possess other capabilities not included in the role description: however, the role description should include only the capabilities that are fundamentally important for effective performance of the role.

Role Descriptions will require review at regular intervals such as when a vacancy occurs, organisational priorities change, or as part of broader workforce planning.

The level of each capability identified from the Legal Professionals Capability Set should be identified based on the role’s:

  • Primary Purpose
  • Key Accountabilities
  • Key Challenges; and
  • Key Relationships.

The capability levels are unlikely to change unless these aspects of the role change.

As the behavioural indicators are an indicative, rather than exhaustive, list of the knowledge, skills and abilities expected at each level, not all of the behavioural indicators will apply to every role.

However, the Legal Professionals Capability Set is intended to provide a common language for describing the capabilities and behaviours required by all public sector legal professionals, regardless of the context of the role and the organisation.

For this reason, while behavioural indicators should not be modified or removed from a capability, a pragmatic approach to application of the Legal Professionals Capability Set should be taken when undertaking assessment activities to fill a role and in performance management discussions.

For example, a legal professional may require the Legislative Development and Drafting capability to perform their role effectively but their role may be primarily to provide advice on procedural options, rather than to be directly involved in drafting legislation. As lack of experience in drafting legislation might discourage job applicants, the job advertisement could state: “Note that direct experience in drafting legislation is not required”.

The Legal Professionals Capability Set creates consistency across agencies which will support employee mobility, create clarity around work expectations and enable more effective workforce planning.

If existing capabilities do not adequately describe the skills and expertise required, please provide feedback to the Public Service Commission at capabilityframework@psc.nsw.gov.au. The Legal Professionals Capability Set will be reviewed 12 months’ post-publication, to evaluate fitness for purpose and any opportunities to refine content, where appropriate.

The levels in the Legal Professionals Capability Set do not correspond directly with any grade or band.

Managers need to make a judgment on what level of capability is required for a role in their team, based on the key accountabilities of the role. The Legal Professionals Capability Set is designed to allow for flexibility when assigning capabilities to roles and it is feasible that an employee may require a wider range of legal capabilities than their manager or – in some situations - a capability at a higher level than their manager.

Many roles in the sector are adequately covered by the capabilities described in the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework.

Legal Professionals capabilities should only be included in a role description when specialised legal occupational knowledge, skill and abilities are required to effectively perform the role.

The following indicators may assist in determining whether a role requires occupation specific capabilities:

  • the work clearly requires specialised, legal occupation specific knowledge, skill and/or ability
  • specialised, legal occupation specific work occupies a large part of the role
  • the job title is strongly associated with the legal function
  • the ‘Primary Purpose’, ‘Key Accountabilities’, and ‘Key Challenges’ contained in the role description indicate a need for legal occupation specific capabilities to perform the role effectively.

As a guide, most legal role descriptions would be expected to require in the range of 3-5 Legal Professionals capabilities (in addition to the core capabilities from the Capability Framework).

Legal professionals may possess a wider range of Legal Professionals capabilities, but only the Legal Professionals capabilities fundamentally important for effective performance of their role should be included in their role description. Other Legal Professionals capabilities may be included as part of learning and development activities, as required.

Some Legal Professionals capabilities may be selected as focus capabilities in addition to those selected from the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework, but there is no requirement that they all be focus capabilities.

Focus capabilities are those for which an employee assigned to a role must demonstrate immediate competence. Once an employee commences in a role they may need some development to reach the required standard for one or more of the other, non-focus capabilities.

See the Role Description Development Guidleine and Capability Comparison Guide for an indicative number of focus capabilities for roles at different grades.

It is not expected that all executive legal roles will have Level 4 Legal Professionals capabilities. The context of the role and organisation will determine whether Legal Professionals capabilities are required and, if so, the level needed for effective performance of the role.

It is expected that executive legal roles would, in general, have capabilities at Level 3 and Level 4, but it is feasible that – in some situations - an employee may require a capability at a higher level than their manager.

Legal Professionals capabilities are transferable, professional skills, knowledge and abilities, which can be applied when working in any practice area of law.

Subject matter knowledge is the knowledge that a legal professional accumulates working in a substantive area of law, such as in criminal law, equity law, employment law and administrative law.

Both transferable Legal Professionals capabilities and subject matter knowledge may be required to effectively perform a role.

Subject matter knowledge requirements may be captured in the “Essential requirements” section in the role description.

The recruitment and selection guides on the PSC website provide information on how to design an assessment process and select fit-for-purpose assessments that are suited to what is being assessed (i.e. the capabilities at the level required for the role) in the particular context (i.e. functional or subject matter area).

Feedback on the Legal Professionals Capability Set is welcome, and will be considered as part of the evaluation undertaken 12 months’ post-publication.