How to Become a Lawyer in Australia
A lawyer is someone who represents clients' interests. They can be either a barrister or a solicitor. That means that they either specialise in providing advice to clients and preparing legal cases or they prepare cases for trial and specialise in advocacy. In both cases, these are individuals who have been admitted into the legal profession by the Supreme Court of an Australian State or Territory.
Barristers are trained persons who present legal matters before a judge or a jury. They are what most people associate lawyers with, due to a high number of court dramas and other television programmes. Sometimes, they have passed additional courses and training in order to be better prepared to comply with court procedures and practices.
On the other hand, solicitors are those lawyers who meet with potential clients - people who need advice on legal matters. They also prepare cases for court, taking care of all administrative things and any research that needs doing.
Do you have a keep sense of justice? Do you enjoy helping others and getting them out of tricky situations? Maybe you like reading up on things and finding exceptions to the rules? If so, the career of a lawyer might just be for you. Here’s a simple guide on how to become a lawyer in Australia.
Step 1: Get a Bachelor in Law
A prerequisite of becoming a legal practitioner is obtaining a law degree. The three- or four-year study programmes will provide you with the necessary knowledge of the principles of law. Keep in mind that any programme you choose needs to cover the eleven areas of basic legal knowledge needed to practice law in Australia - known as the Priestley 11. Additionally, your chosen course of study needs to be recognised by the state or territory you are planning to practice law in.
Alternative Step 1: Get a Juris Doctor (JD)
This should be your chosen course of study if you’ve already obtained an undergraduate degree in a different field. The same principle will apply - the programme will need to cover the Priestley 11 and be recognised by your target area of practice.
Step 2: Get Legally Trained
In order to become a practitioner, you will need to complete a Practical Legal Training course organised by a provider recognised by your target territory. This training can last around 80 days and it consists of practical work, supervised by a lawyer who has at least three years of experience in the field.
Step 3: Get Admitted into Legal Practice
To become a lawyer in Australia, you will need to be admitted by your state or territory’s Admissions Board. The Board will determine if you fulfil the conditions needed to start practising law. Keep in mind that your deadline for the admittance is five years following graduation.
Step 4: Get a Practising Certificate
Once you’ve started practising law and have between 1.5 years and 2 years of experience under your belt, you’re eligible to obtain a Practicing Certificate. This certificate allows you to remain a solicitor and continue to give legal advice, prepare cases, conduct client consultations and do research.
Step 5: Get Specialised & Become a Barrister
After having completed the previous steps, you can decide to further specialise your knowledge and get more training in order to become a barrister. These legal practitioners are the ones that represent clients in court, during mediation or dispute resolution proceedings. If you opt to become one, be aware that you will need to be admitted into the Bar Association of the state or territory you will be practising in. This means that you will need to take a Bar exam and then pass a Bar Readers’ Course.
What Does a Lawyer Do?
Depending on whether you are a solicitor or a barrister, you would be tasked with different things. Solicitors are experts at handling both clients and research. They specialise in holding consultations with potential clients, advising them on legal matters. Also, they prepare court cases, doing any preparatory work and administration things. Additionally, they are tasked with doing any research a task may need. In contrast, barristers are those who represent clients in court. They present legal matters in front of a judge or a jury, as well as oversee and consult clients during different types of conflict resolution proceedings - including mediation and arbitrage.
- Conducting client consultations
- Providing legal advice
- Preparing court cases
- Conducting preparatory work
- Performing administrative tasks
- Conducting legal research
- Representing clients
- Presenting legal matters in front of the court
- Advising clients during conflict resolution proceedings
Skills for Success
In order to be successful at what they do, lawyers need to be driven, ambitious and motivated. Additionally, research skills are of the utmost importance, as are communication skills. They need to have a way with words and need to be familiar with the law and court procedures. It would help if they were detail-oriented, as well as have a problem-solving approach. It is important for them to be well-organised and have the ability to categorise every-day problems into legal categories. First and foremost, they need to be ethical and put their client’s interests ahead of everything else. They would also do better if they are eloquent, calm and persistent.
- Drive, ambition and motivation
- Knowledge of the law and court regulations
- Excellent research abilities
- Problem-solving approach
- Detail- and solution-oriented way of thinking
- Communication skills
- Outstanding research and organisation skills
- Ability to legally categorise problems