How to become a lawyer in Australia

How to become a lawyer in Australia

Do you have a knack for debates and would love to pursue an intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding career?

Becoming a lawyer might be the answer. 

From prestige to the opportunity to help others, practicing law offers loads of benefits. However, becoming one is challenging, given you have to scale through law school and pass the bar. However, it’s an enriching career with several perks. 

If you desire a law career, you’ve come to the right place! This post will share how you can join the over 84,000 lawyers in Australia. 

Understanding a lawyer’s role

When you think of a lawyer, the first picture that comes to mind is a professionally-dressed person giving a series of arguments before a judge and jury. However, this is just a teeny-tiny part of what lawyers do. Most lawyers never go to court. 

But broadly speaking, lawyers have licensed professionals that understand abstract legal theories and apply them to promote the best interests of their clients. Some of the significant duties and tasks of a lawyer include the following:

✔ Meeting and interviewing clients to understand their problems

✔ Interpreting laws, regulations, and court rulings for individuals and businesses.

✔ Representing clients in court, mediation, and tribunals. 

✔ Helping to represent their clients and argue on their behalf verbally. 

✔ Analysing and reviewing contracts between two parties.

✔ Preparing, reviewing, and acting as an executor of their clients’ will.

✔ Dealing with property matters by drafting mortgage agreements, lease agreements, contrasts of sales, and more. 

✔ Undergoing thorough research on a case, arranging witness attendance and protection, and notifying involved parties of legal proceedings. 

Your specific legal specialty will determine your exact roles and responsibilities. 

Steps to becoming a lawyer in Australia.

Step 1: Complete an approved law degree.

You must first complete a law degree to become a lawyer. If this is your first time attending university, you must complete a Bachelors of Law (LLB) degree, which takes four years. For those already with another degree, you can finish a Juris Doctor (JD) postgraduate degree, which takes three years. 

Regardless of your college, all law students must complete the Priestley 11 law subjects before admission to practice as legal practitioners. These prescribed areas of knowledge included:

✔ Civil procedure

✔ Administrative law

✔ Company law

✔ Criminal law and procedure

✔ Contracts

✔ Equity (including Trusts)

✔ Evidence

✔ Ethics and professional responsibility

✔ Property

✔ Federal and state constitutional law

✔ Torts

Asides from these fundamental courses, you may have to take other compulsory or elective subjects. Completing these subjects will prepare you to become a lawyer. 

Before selecting a school to pursue a law degree, perform thorough research to know if you’re a good fit for the culture and teaching style of the school. To guide you in your search, the following are Australia’s best law schools:

✔ University of Melbourne

✔ Australian National University

✔ UNSW Sydney

✔ University of Sydney

✔ Monash University

What’s more, you can consider laws to be double degrees. That way, you can equip yourself to become a lawyer while developing other crucial skills in either business, arts, or science. 

Step 2: Partake in the Practical Legal Training (PLT) Program

Have you completed your degree? The next step is enrolling in a PLT program or Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) to gain practical experience as an entry-level lawyer. 

Each state and territory in Australia has a Legal Admissions Board that assesses students before admission into the law profession in Australia. PLT providers help students secure job placement. However, they must first secure approval from the necessary legal admissions board. 

Most legal practice experience is supervised by a lawyer (with three or more years of experience in the legal field), and the program lasts up to 80 days. GDLP, on the flip side, can be completed in 6 months, and some even offer fully online programs. 

Other ways to complete your PLT include:

✔ Clerkship: You can get a legal job as a clerk to gain hands-on experience. This program usually lasts for 12 months. 

✔ A certification via supervised workplace training: available only for aspiring lawyers in Queensland and Australia and takes one year to complete. 

Step 3: Seek admission into Legal Practice

As noted, entry into the legal profession is regulated by different Legal Admissions Boards in Australian states and territories. You must seek admission through the relevant admission body within five years of graduation. You must meet the requirements of the admissions authority to be eligible.

These requirements include completing a law degree, a PLT program, and many more. Make sure to check with the admissions authority of your state or territory so you can adequately assess if you meet all stated requirements. 

Step 4: Get a practising certificate.

The final stage to becoming a full-fledged lawyer in Australia is securing a practising certificate. You must complete 18 to 24 months of supervised practice before applying for a practising certificate. After certification, there are different career paths available. Most seek to work as a Solicitor, while others pursue a further degree to become a barrister. Many layers eventually take an LLM degree to specialise in the law field. 

Australian states and territories have different bodies issuing practising certificates based on the jurisdiction. Some examples include the Australian Capital Territory Bar Association (barristers) and the Law Society of New South Wales (solicitors). 

Step 5: Carry out a nationally coordinated criminal history check (NCCHC) if required

In most Australian jurisdictions, practising lawyers must disclose prior convictions in Australia and other countries to practise law. A criminal record does not disqualify a person from becoming a lawyer by default. However, this is mainly dependent on the nature of the offence.

For example, If you are in the state of New South Wales, you can obtain a national police check in NSW from a nationally coordinated criminal history check service like ANCC. The background check reveals an individual’s past criminal record, including arrests, convictions, and criminal proceedings.

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