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How To Become A Lawyer In Australia

How to become a lawyerQualifying as lawyer in Australia is broadly similar to many other English-speaking countries with a system of
Solicitors and Barristers.

Each state or territory in Australia has it's own Law Society for Solicitors and Bar Association for Barristers and there are also national representative bodies as well.

The salaries for both Solicitors and Barristers in Australia can vary from between $60,000 (Australian Dollars) per year to $150,000 per year depending on the sector and seniority. In Australia, Barristers are self-employed so they have more control over their potential earnings.

Jobs in the legal profession that are not lawyers, such as paralegals, earn around $50,000 per year.

There are plenty of opportunities for law graduates in Australia and students can study Australian Law at some international institutions.

In this article we outline the various steps you can take to qualify as a lawyer in Australia.

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Steps to becoming a lawyer in Australia

Here are the steps to take if you are interested in becoming a practising lawyer in Australia:

Complete a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Law (LLB)

The first step is to undertake a course recognised by the Law Society of state or territory you wish to practise in. An LLB is an undergraduate degree suitable for those who do not already possess one. For those who have an undergraduate degree in any subject then the JD is for them. The course must cover the 'Priestley 11', which are the 11 areas of basic legal knowledge required to practice in Australia. Both courses are three or four years long, and after completion will qualify you to move onto the next step to become a lawyer. 

Complete Practical Legal Training

Each state or territory in Australia has a Legal Admissions Board that assesses students who wish to become lawyers. These boards have approved Practical Legal Training (PLT) course providers who hold the courses, known as the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice and assist students with finding a work placement for their Legal Practice Experience. The Legal Practice Experience can be up to 80 days of supervised legal practice by a lawyer who has at least three years experience of legal practice. The Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice can be attained in as little as six months and some providers teach most of the course online. Having a Law Degree from outside of Australia does not prevent you from admission to a PLT course and you should contact the relevant Law School or college to see if your degree is acceptable. Once the PLT is completed trainee lawyers then move onto Admission to Legal Practice.

Admission to Legal Practice

Law graduates in Australia must apply to the relevant state or territories Admissions Authority within 5 years of graduation, if they have graduated since the 1st of January 2015 and you must apply at least four weeks before the admission ceremony filing date. In some states, you must have legal counsel represent you in court when you 'move' your admission and in others, you can represent yourself. 

Practising Certificate

After you have found a job and completed 18 to 24 months of supervised practice you then apply to the local Law Society for a Practising Certificate. Once you have become a practising lawyer you can then decide if you wish to remain a Solicitor or move onto to further study and become a Barrister. It's at this point that many lawyers chose to study an LLM to specialise their practice of law further. 

Becoming a Barrister

Like in the UK, Australia operates a system of Solicitors and Barristers. The Barristers are experts in different legal matters, dispute resolution, mediation and at representing clients in court. Each state or territory has its own legal Bar authority and there is also a national Bar Association. To step up to the Bar you must gain entrance to the Bar Readers' Course by taking the Bar exam and then satisfactorily pass Bar Readers' Course.

Post-LLM careers in Australia

Australia has strict immigration laws and just because you have studied your LLM program there doesn’t necessarily mean you have the immediate right to stay on and work there. However, there are lots of available career options for those who have the right set of qualifications and experiences, and are able to get the correct documentation in place.

Opportunities for foreign lawyers in Australia

To make the most of available opportunities as a foreign lawyer in Australia you must have an excellent law degree, which is the equivalent to an Australian LLB, however, you probably were required this to gain a place on the LLM program in Australia the first place. It is the state or territory in Australia rather than the central government that decides if you can live and work there. Several legal careers are on the Australian government’s Skilled Occupation List and these currently include Legal Clerks, Barristers, Solicitors and Intellectual Property lawyers. The Skilled Occupation List changes frequently, so it's a good idea to check it regularly.

LLMs for foreign lawyers in Australia

For students who come from non-Common Law countries, it is useful to study an LLM program that is designed for your needs, such as the one at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

How do Australian law firms recruit LLM graduates?

Networking is key to gaining a position after you have graduated from your LLM program in Australia. Choosing an LLM program that includes a work placement will help you find a job in Australia after your course is finished, as this is how many law firms get to know potential employees.

If you want to get in job in a law firm in Australia it’s a good idea to start your search early and keep checking on the local firms who are holding recruiting events, and it’s important to note that most law firms hire lawyers who have interned for them. Speak to your law school’s career guidance centre and other students. Your law school will hold networking events for you to attend, so make sure that you do and attend any event with guest speakers from local or national law firms or legal organisations. Participating in legal clinics and gaining as much experience as you can while you study your LLM in Australia will help clinch that job at the end.

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