How to become a Lawyer and practice in Australia
Becoming a lawyer is no walk in the park, however, if you are determined to embark on a career in law, this guide will cover every possible way for you to achieve your goal.
- Pathways to legal practice
- Applying for admission to practice
- The fastest way to become a lawyer
- Landing your first job as a lawyer
- What to expect as a trainee/junior solicitor
This guide is about a 5-minute read.
Pathways to legal practice
To practice law in Australia you will need to hold a qualifying law degree combined with a practical legal training certificate.
What are the qualifying law degrees?
- Bachelor of laws
- Juris Doctor
3. Master or laws
Obtained from any Australian university or from universities in qualifying overseas common law countries such as the UK, Hong Kong, Canada, India, New Zealand or the United States
What is practical legal training?
Practical legal training: is a structured training program designed to help graduates develop a practical skill set to go along with what their academic skills acquired at uni.
Bachelor of laws
- Undergraduate entry
Admission requirements: Generally law schools require an ATAR score of above 90 points.
By far the most common pathway for school leavers in the bachelor or law graduate entry. This pathway generally takes 4 years to complete at a full-time rate of study and 8 years ar part-time.
- Graduate entry
Admission requirements: Successfully completed an undergraduate degree (in any discipline)
If you already have tertiary education you may be able to get into law school as a graduate. If so you could shave a year of the total time it takes to complete a bachelors which means you could complete your degree in 3 years instead of 4.
Admission requirements: Postgraduate
The Juris doctor is very much similar to the bachelor of laws graduate-entry due to the 3 years accelerated study program.
Master or laws
Admission requirements: Postgraduate
Once you have obtained any of the above you will now need to get PLT
Practical legal training
Entry requirements: Obtained your law degree or completed most of it (some states)
Apply for admission to practice
Once you have obtained your degree and completed your practical legal training all that’s left to do now is apply for admission into practice and be admitted by the court and apply for an Australian practising certificate.
The admission authorities, ceremony locations and providers of practising certificates are:
Australian Capital Territory:
- Legal Practitioners Admission Board
- ACT Supreme Court
New South Wales:
- Legal Profession Admission Board
- Supreme Court of New South Wales
- The Legal Practitioners’ Admission Board
- Supreme Court of the Northern Territory
- Legal Practitioners Admissions Board
- Court of Appeal in Brisbane or Supreme Court judge in regional areas
- South Australian Board of Examiners
- Supreme Court of South Australia
- Legal Profession Board of Tasmania
- Supreme Court of Tasmania
- Victorian Legal Admissions Board
- Banco Court (Court 1) of the Supreme Court Building
- Legal Practice Board of Western Australia
- Supreme Court of Western Australia
Once you have been admitted all that’s left to do now its get a practising certificate.
What’s the fastest way to become a lawyer?
If you already hold a bachelors degree (in any subject), the fastest way to become a lawyer is to complete a graduate certificate or laws or a law conversion course in a qualifying overseas country followed by a master of laws followed by PLT.
Graduate certificate of laws
Average duration: 1-year full time
Law conversion course (UK)
Average duration: 6 months full time
Master of laws
Average duration: 1 year.
As you can see this option is by far the fastest way to become a solicitor for those who already hold a bachelors degree. If you are lucky enough to be from the UK or can afford to study there, completing an LCC followed by masters can be done in just 18 months.
Landing a job as a lawyer
So you have done everything required of you to legally practice law and it’s time to start work, but where do you start? It’s a good idea to do some thinking and conduct research to find out;
- what area(s) of law interest you or do you want to practice in?
- what areas of law do prospect employers specialise in?
- who is employing and what do employers look for in graduates
- how can you make yourself stand out from other candidates
Common areas of practice
- Contract Law
- Criminal Law
- Tort/Personal Injury Law
- Administrative Law
- Industrial Law
- Constitutional Law
Due to the number of jobs being far less than the number of students graduating, competition between graduates is fierce. It’s also become the norm that law students are passing with HD’s. However top tier law firms such as Clifford Chance, says the split between their solicitors who complete a bachelors of law and those who study something else before transitioning is about 50:50. This means that if you hold a degree in another discipline as well as law you essentially have a far better chance of acheiving employment than someone who doesn’t.
Do you know how many lawyers there are in Australia?
What to expect as a trainee/junior solicitor?
So you have graduated from university, passed your practical legal training and landed a job a junior solicitor what now?
It’s been well documented that graduate lawyers are expected to work extraordinarily long hours, often without remuneration. In fact, it has become that bad that the Fair Work Commission has introduced provisions that require law firms to conduct annual pay reconciliations and make solicitors aware of the maximum hours they can work under salary before being eligible for overtime or penalty rates.
A career in law is no ‘get rich quick’ scheme. On average, junior lawyers at mid-tier firms take home between $60,000 and $65,000 and those lucky enough to land a job at a top-tier firm can expect to pocket between $70,000 and $80,000.
Your role as a new solicitor will depend on who you work for and what they specialise in, however, one thing is for sure, you will not be speaking in court or providing clients with legal advice for a long time.
Common duties include;
- Taking directions from senior solicitors;
- managing client records;
- Preparing standard documents and correspondence;
- conducting professional research
- and perform other reasonable duties such as trips to the coffee shop and or lunch bar
Still want to become a lawyer?
Australia has some of the best law schools in the world and with more diverse study options available than ever before there has never been an easier time to become a lawyer.
What to do next?
Identify which path would be best suited to your individual level of education and experience and apply to some law schools. Bear in mind that all universities have different admission criteria. Generally the more prestigious the law school the harder it will be to get in. For this reason, there’s no harm in applying to as many universities as you can.
Also, it’s worth noting that many law schools now offer their study programs completely online.