June 23, 2020 10:00 am
Law dramas on television often show you a highly glamourised view of the legal profession, yet they rarely portray all the things you need to actually become a lawyer. If you’re interested in a career in law but aren’t sure what it involves, this guide will help you to understand how you can become a lawyer in Australia.
What degree/qualifications do I need to become a lawyer?
The first step is a degree in law. You can start such a degree as an undergraduate, straight out of high school. This is called a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). You can also enter a law degree as a graduate, after you’ve successfully completed a degree in another discipline. This is called a Juris Doctor (JD).
How many years do you have to go to university to be a lawyer?
As an undergraduate, the Bachelor of Laws entails four years of full-time study, or eight years part time. For graduates, the degree can be completed in three years of full-time study; the JD is a Masters level law degree, with an emphasis on higher level student enquiry and analysis.
Once you’ve completed your law degree, which gives you an understanding of laws and the legal system, you then need to learn how to work effectively within that system. There is an extra requirement to becoming a lawyer. This stage is known as Practical Legal Training or PLT.
PLT is the application of a graduate’s theoretical legal knowledge in a real-world setting through a structured training program. PLT is usually undertaken after you have completed your law degree, although it is possible to begin beforehand, provided that you have no more than two academic subjects left to complete. PLT students study a range of topics, focusing on skills, core practice areas and values, as well as a number of electives focussed on practice areas they are considering pursuing in their careers.. Upon completion of PLT, graduates are awarded a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. The PLT provider must also certify to the relevant state Supreme Court that the graduate is competent as an entry level lawyer.
Once PLT has been completed, the graduate can apply to the Admitting Authority in their state to be admitted as an Australian Lawyer. The graduate needs to satisfy three lawyer requirements for admission:
1. The successful completion a law degree;
2. The successful completion of PLT;
3. Demonstration that they are a fit and proper person for admission to the legal profession.
The third requirement is primarily concerned with ethics and moral character, and understanding the duties of being a lawyer. Applicants for admission must disclose any criminal, academic or general misconduct which may impact their ability to work as an officer of the Court.
After completing PLT and being admitted, new lawyers must undertake 2 years of supervised practice in a legal workplace. This enables lawyers to to increase their skills and experience with the safety net of a supervisor until they are capable of practising independently. After 2 years lawyers can apply to have the restriction of supervised practice removed from their record and obtain a full practising certificate. If they want to set up their own legal practice instead of working for an employer, they need first to complete an approved Practice Management Course.
The final step to become a lawyer is to apply to your local authority for a Practising Certificate, which enables you to begin working as a lawyer.