Becoming a Judge or Magistrate

Pursuing a career as a judge or magistrate offers tremendous opportunities for advancement. You can even specialise in the types of cases you’ll oversee by choosing civil, family, or criminal law. This overview provides a brief understanding of what it takes to become a judge and what your responsibilities will be in that position.

How Do You Become a Judge?

In order to qualify to become a judge or magistrate, you’ll need to have an education in law. Since becoming eligible to sit as a judge requires a thorough understanding of the practice of law, it makes sense that most judges first spend several years working as lawyers. Spending time working as a lawyer provides experience in developing another skill that’s essential to becoming a judge: communication skills. You should be able to express yourself coherently through oral speech and written text since your thoughts and decisions will affect the lives of the people in your court.

You would also have to develop an understanding of legal ethics. Your actions will affect people in significant ways, so you must exhibit a good moral character. People who are successful as judges have good characters, an understanding of common sense, and an ability to make decisions that are impartial and fair.

What Does a Judge or Magistrate Do?

It may seem like a judge, or a magistrate, doesn’t do much, but most people don’t see what goes on outside of the courtroom. Before they can make a decision on any plea, or motion, they must review the documents submitted in court by the lawyers. This involves reading each document, reviewing past cases that are similar, and reviewing the relevant laws. They can spend several hours doing legal research before making a final decision.

Even after a judge makes a decision and settles an issue in court, they still have work to perform. They must write a summation that describes their decision, including the factors that influenced that decision. This helps other judges and magistrates understand why that decision was made, so they can use the information to help them settle their own legal issues, appeal requests, etcetera.

A lawyer spends years in school and, even after they begin practising law, they still continue to learn about new cases and laws. The same dedication to work and learning is required by judges and magistrates. While this can be a rewarding career, allowing you an opportunity to help others, it also entails long hours of work and study.

Common Legal Mistakes to Avoid in Business

Operating a business is much more than simply making a transaction and telling the customer to have a great day. There is so much work that goes into creating a business that entrepreneurs and new business owners often primarily focus on getting their business off the ground. In doing so, however, many of the important legal aspects are overlooked or not considered with enough diligence.

Here are some of the most common legal mistakes businesses should avoid.

Refraining From Using a Lawyer

Many businesses, regardless of whether they’re established or just starting out, receive complaints but simply shrug them off. However, if a complaint becomes legal these businesses are left scrambling, and possibly not knowing what to do. Smaller businesses would rather represent themselves in court rather than hire a lawyer. This is most likely due to the business not having a big enough budget, which is understandable.

Businesses that are just starting out may not have the resources to feel comfortable retaining a lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer is recommended for all businesses. They have the knowledge and experience to handle legal issues if one ever arises. Even if your start-up is brand new and the budget is very small, consider networking so that you know who you can count on if or when legal counsel is ever required.

There Are No Terms and Conditions

When someone goes on a website, they will receive a notification about the “terms and conditions” of that company. It is a form of agreement that customers must abide by. This agreement is what lays out everything for what the products are intended for. Not having this agreement puts the entire business at risk of a lawsuit. If a new business is taken to court, it can hurt its reputation for the future.

Not Complying With Tax Laws

Some businesses may not want to report income and avoid filing their taxes. While some do this out of greed, others may feel like it’s too much of a hassle. However, there are a number of benefits when filing taxes on time.

It not only keeps the business out of trouble, but it also boosts their reputation. If maintaining business taxes seems overwhelming, simply hire a business lawyer and keep them on standby.

Making a legal mistake is not uncommon. It’s mostly due to businesses still being relatively new and needing to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship. However, when it comes down to it, legal mistakes are something to have an understanding of and avoid at all costs.

How to Choose a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney transfers specific power to a designated person in a legally binding document. There are a number of reasons a power of attorney can be transferred to someone else, including certain health, financial, or personal decisions. 

Delegating the management of your affairs to someone else is a major decision and should not be taken lightly. When giving another person the legal authority to act on your own behalf it is imperative that you know that person well and there is absolute trust between you both. Choose someone who has the necessary personality characteristics to handle the big decisions or has the experience to do so. 

When choosing an attorney make sure that the person you designate has great attention to detail. This person may one day be in the position to dictate the line of care you receive if you fall ill and are not responsive. What do you want them to do if you are in a vegetative state?  Certain things that you would want to happen if you were in a specific situation should be discussed with your power of attorney candidate. 

Furthermore, your attorney should have a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities and the commitment required to follow through if need be. The duties of a POA are very serious and should be taken as such. When choosing the person, consider whether or not they have the ability to work with lawyers, accountants, or anyone else who may be involved.

If you are involved in a business it is particularly important that you take your time when choosing an attorney. That person may someday be appointed to control your business and financial structures. Appoint someone who has great knowledge of your business and will make decisions that are in your best interest.

When you’re considering giving someone your power of attorney it is very helpful to sit down with that person and have a conversation about all of the responsibilities that come with the position. It’s only fair that the individual has a handle on the scope of matters regarding both your financial and legal affairs. Ideally, you will choose someone who you not only trust but also shares in your beliefs. 

Roadmap to Becoming a Lawyer in Australia

Becoming a lawyer takes a lot of work, and some could see it as intimidating when looking from the ground up. Knowing what your road to practising law looks like may ease some of that uncertainty. 

Complete a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Law (LLB) The most obvious step in becoming certified to practise is to obtain a degree in the field you want your career in. In Australia, if you don’t already have an undergraduate degree, then you’ll want to get an LLB. Contrarily, if you already have an undergraduate degree (no matter what the degree may be in), you’ll have to get your JD. Whichever course you take will need to be recognised by the Law Society in the state or territory you’ll be practising in, and it must cover the Priestly 11 —the eleven basic areas of legal knowledge required for practising lawyers in Australia. These degrees can take three or four years to complete. 

Complete Practical Legal Training Once you’ve got your degree, you’ll have to be assessed by the Legal Admissions Board in the state or territory you’ll be practising in. The board will have a list of approved Practical Legal Training (PLT) course providers that will get you on track toward earning the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. They will also assist in finding work placement so the Legal Practise Experience can be completed; this can take up to 80 days under the supervision of a lawyer with at least three years of experience. Completing your PLT can take as little as six months. 

Admission to Legal Practise With your PLT done, you’ll have up to five years to apply to the Admissions Authority in the state or territory you’ll be practising in. You must apply at least four weeks before the admissions filing date to be considered. Read up on what is expected of you: some states will require a legal counsel to move you through admission, while others will let you represent yourself. 

Practising Certificate After getting a job and completing 18 to 24 months of supervised legal practise, you can apply to the local Law Society for a Practising Certificate. With the certificate, you can decide whether to remain a Solicitor or move forward to become a Barrister. Many lawyers continue their study and get an LLM to specialise themselves further. 

Becoming a Barrister Should you not wish to remain a Solicitor, you can move forward and become a Barrister instead, allowing you to settle disputes, be a mediator, or represent a client in court. There is a national Bar Association, but each state or territory has its own Bar authority as well. To go this route, you’ll have to take the Bar exam and pass the Bar Readers’ Course. 

Things to Know About Law School

Being in law school is a popular setting for mainstream media ( Legally Blonde and How to Get Away With Murder come to mind), but what some people may not fully register is that those settings are fictitious. There may be some truth underlying the plot of the story they tell, but in reality, a socially awkward man more than likely won’t come and help you study until you’re one of the top students in your class, nor will you and a group of other students, in addition to your professor, be involved in dubious murders or other unideal situations with only yourselves to keep one another from appearing guilty. 

Push aside what pop culture shows law school to be like. If you want to attend law school and excel in it, keep these expectations in mind. 

Focus on Your Grades It may seem obvious, but keeping your grades up is essential toward succeeding not only in class but in school overall. Unlike in undergraduate courses, law school professors grade on an independent curve and rank their students according to their GPA every semester. There is an allotted number of As, Bs, C, Ds, etc. available within that curve, so if there were to be more As than allowed, the lowest few would move down to a B. This, of course, is the stem for the competitive nature law schools are known for. Still, some professors offer participation points to offset the balance—participating in class is a must. 

Prepare for Everything While you may have been able to slack off every now and then during undergrad and still come off relatively okay, law school won’t allow for that. Your professor will expect you to be prepared, and skimming the material or winging it will not only be a disservice to your professor and classmates, but it will be a disservice to yourself as well. If you aren’t prepared for whatever reason, be upfront about it rather than struggling through something you don’t know. You may be called on more the next time your class meets, however, so be sure not to be caught unprepared twice in a row. 

Balance School and Life As important as being prepared and earning good grades is, you’ll get nowhere if you don’t take care of yourself as well. Contrary to popular belief, college students cannot survive on coffee and Redbull alone, all-nighters will only fog your brain up more, and stress is more detrimental to your ability as a student than it is helpful. Take the time to put the books away and hang out with friends or watch some Netflix. Doing a relaxing activity will not only relieve your stress, but it’ll also let you look at your notes and textbooks with fresh eyes and a clearer mind when it’s time to dive back into your studies. 

It takes a lot of work to succeed in law school. By placing yourself in the reality of being there and knowing what to expect before you start classes, you should be better prepared for what’s to come. 

What to Expect in Australian Court Proceedings

If you’ve never been to court before, then attending a proceeding can be intimidating. That’s to be expected if you don’t know how, exactly, it works, especially if you’re a new migrant or just visiting. Knowing what to do and expect once you arrive could help ease your nerves and make the day go a lot smoother than anticipated.

What to Wear

It’s important to dress appropriately when going in for your court case. A suit and tie aren’t necessary, but you should aim to keep yourself neat and tidy when going in for your hearing. It could be several hours before you’re seen, so wearing comfortable clothes will make the wait more bearable.

Before the Hearing

Expect airport-style security when entering the courthouse. You and your belongings may be scanned before you’re allowed to enter the courthouse, and any prohibited items, like knives, will be confiscated. Once inside, you’ll need to find the courtroom your hearing will be taking place in. A list should be printed and displayed in the foyer and will have your case name and room number. If you can’t find the room, approach a court officer to ask for directions. Court officers wear either a red badge or a uniform and assist with the case.

Once you get to the appropriate courtroom, let the court officer there know you’ve arrived so you can be told where to wait for your case to be called. If you have a lawyer representing you during the hearing, find where they are and discuss where you’ll be waiting instead. The judicial officer will approach your lawyer at the bar table when your case is ready to be heard, or you will be called by the court officer to speak to the judicial officer if representing yourself. If you plan to leave the area, notify a court officer so your case isn’t heard without you being there.

During the Hearing

Courts have a formality to them. Some people may bow when they enter or leave the courtroom as a show of respect to the court, but bowing isn’t a requirement of anyone. While in the room, note the judge, who’s dressed in a red, black, or purple robe with a traditional wig, and the magistrate, dressed in black robes but no wig. 

Turn off your cell phone and sit quietly while in the courtroom, and do not interrupt the proceedings for whatever reason. Do not eat or drink, take photographs, or make audio or video recordings, and do not approach or speak with any member of the jury. Being caught with your phone out can lead the judicial officer to think you’re doing something illegal, which would result in you either being asked to leave the court or arrested. Video and audio recording is prohibited unless permission is gained beforehand. 

When your case is up, you’ll be led to either stand at a microphone or sit at the bar table. Stand when you speak and address the judge and magistrate as “your honour” when speaking to them.

Studying Law in Australia

Obtaining a law degree is a rather popular choice to make. By getting a law degree, students not only have a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities, but they gain self-confidence and exercise their critical thinking, persuasive reasoning, and analytical skills both in the classroom and out in the field. Practising law offers financial stability and a position to shape the world as well, so why not go into the field? There are so many high-class institutes to attend that give their students quality education, but no country can quite beat out what Australia has to offer law students.

Why Australia, though? Other than the fact that the University of Melbourne ranks at #6 on a list of top law schools in the world and the University of Sydney ranks at #12, many international students choose to pursue their education in Australia due to the high quality and internationally prized status of degrees obtained there. 

At the undergraduate level, students will receive a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) after completing a four-year curriculum, while those who get the Juris Doctor (JD) will get their degree after three years. Most students obtain an additional degree either during or before their law curriculum, and specialization programs are offered to students to give them a more well-rounded knowledge of national and international law.

Most schools with a law program have a core curriculum that teaches students concepts such as torts, criminal law, and property law. Electives dive further into learning about international law, jurisprudence, and all students have to satisfy a language requirement.

Upon graduation, students often go on to be barristers or solicitors for private practices or the government. Since most countries recognize the degree, they can take their knowledge outside of Australia if they wish. Since a law degree in Australia has such a broad focus on interdisciplinary skills, graduates don’t necessarily have to go into practising law like they studied, as they can also apply their degree to fields such as journalism, business, and technology.

As with any university or degree, students should consider costs when choosing their school. They should also consider the curriculum taught, the school’s reputation, its location and climate, the size of the student body, and the international student demographic for the school. 

Law students are always needed, and Australia provides high-quality education needed to succeed in the field. Some may ask, “Why attend law school in Australia?” when the question should be, why wouldn’t you?

Al-Kateb v Godwin

Many court cases become famous or historic because of the controversy that surrounds them. While many cases follow existing laws there are some that interpret the law in a new and different way, setting new precedents. In 2004 the case of Al-Kateb v Godwin in the High Court of Australia did just that.

In the year 2000, a Palestinian man named Ahmed Al-Kateb who was born in Kuwait moved to Australia. Al-Kateb applied for a temporary protection visa which recognizes a person as a refugee who is fleeing persecution. A temporary protection visa (TPV) is issued to someone who applies for refugee status after arriving unauthorised in Australia. In Al-Kateb’s case, the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration made the decision to refuse his application. The Refugee Review Tribunal and the Federal Court upheld the Commonwealth’s decision.

In 2002 it was Al-Kateb’s wish to then return to Kuwait or Gaxa, however, no country would accept him. Due to the countries refusal and Australia’s denial of a TPV Al-Kateb was declared stateless and wound up being detained within the policy of mandatory detention.

There were two issues that made this case so controversial. One is whether or not the Migration Act 1958 allowed for a person in Al-Kateb’s situation to be detained indefinitely. The Migration Act allowed unlawful non-citizens to be detained until their removal from the country, even when their removal could not take place in the foreseeable future. The second issue was if the Act did permit indefinite detainment was it actually legal under the Constitution of Australia. 

These two points caused quite a debate, with two Justices offering differing views on the constitutional interpretation. The views these individuals expressed focused particularly on human rights and the role of international law. The High Court considered these issues and a majority ruled that the Act allowed for indefinite detention and was not unconstitutional.

At the time Al-Kateb was to be detained indefinitely until either a Middle Eastern state became willing to take him or a state of Palestine was created. The ruling sparked major controversy as many saw the scope of mandatory detention laws as a violation of human rights.

The case put pressure on the Immigration Minister and forced the Court to review other stateless people’s circumstances. At the time 24 people being held in immigration detention had their cases looked at for a second time. After reviewing Al-Kateb and 8 other people were granted bridging visas. In 2005 these people were released from detention, however, they were unable to study, work or obtain government benefits. 

Al-Kateb has said of the situation that he was constantly worried about being sent back and had to rely on donations from friends and supporters. In the summer of 2007, he was granted a permanent visa by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.

The case is used in academic circles as an example of the court taking differing approaches to statutory interpretations and how a legalistic approach can contrast with a purposive approach.

Pros and Cons of Retaining a Lawyer

A retainer fee is money paid in advance to a lawyer for services that will be rendered. The retainer can be paid based on an estimate of the amount of work done for the client that month or can cover all anticipated work for the entire case.

For example, if you hire a lawyer to handle a custody matter you may pay them 5,000 to provide that service. In that case, every letter, phone call or time spent working on your case will be billed to the retainer amount that you’ve put on deposit with them. In some cases, if you do not use the full amount in some cases there is no refund or credit. It’s important to understand the retainer agreement and read the fine print before signing so you know just how any overpayments will be handled. If you use more than the amount of the retainer it is reasonable to be sure that you will have to pay additional fees.

There are a number of reasons that a lawyer may request a retainer fee. It can compensate the lawyer for the use of their expertise and reputation, even if it is because that particular lawyer’s name can help the client gain leverage or allow the case to settle quickly. There are instances where the right lawyer can even achieve a settlement after only a few phone calls or a letter. If that’s the case that the value of the retainer fee is obvious and the lawyer should be compensated for the use of his or her reputation.

A lawyer may also request a retainer fee when they are agreeing to be on standby for the case. When that happens the lawyer is essentially forgoing other gainful employment or business opportunities so that they are able to remain available when they are needed for the lawsuit. This is a major reason many businesses have lawyers on retainer if the situation occurs where a lawsuit is filed against a company a lawyer that is on retainer can be available immediately with their expertise.

Furthermore, retainer fees protect lawyers once the work has begun. If the case proceeds the lawyer can use the fee to defray costs as they work on the case. If a disagreement takes place or an unforeseen circumstance makes it impossible for the client to pay the lawyer the retainer fee ensures that the lawyer will receive at least some of their compensation for the time they’ve spent on the matter.

There are, inevitably, arguments against collecting a retainer fee up front. There are people who are simply put off by the idea of prepaying for a service and will choose to hire a lawyer who does not charge a retainer fee. That is often why a lawyer who does charge a fee upfront is a professional who is specialised in a major discipline, well-known, or exceptional in one way or another. Scarcity creates value which can provide specialised lawyers with an advantage when negotiating retainer fees.

Another argument against retainer fees is that for some potential clients there is a fear that if a case settles before much work is done the client will have essentially paid for nothing. However, the counter-argument to that is of course that the lawyer has potentially utilized his or her reputation and the client paid for the opportunity to use that lawyer to their advantage. 

Finally, when given the opportunity to work with two similarly qualified lawyers many may choose the one who does not charge a retainer fee. Many lawyers are willing to forgo the fee or refund it if little or no work is actually completed before a settlement is reached. New layers may find that it is beneficial to refrain from collecting retainer fees so that they can compete against more seasoned layers with already developed reputations.

A lawyer’s choice of whether or not to charge a retainer fee is ultimately their preference. It’s important to evaluate layers and determine how experienced, well-known, and qualified that individual is before deciding if their expertise warrants the fee that they are charging. Most lawyers are willing to work with a client and find the best approach so that it is fair to both the lawyer and the client. 

Things to Consider When Choosing a Lawyer

The type of legal matter will determine what sort of lawyer you’ll need. However, there are many other aspects to take into consideration when choosing a lawyer. Finding the right legal counsel is important so it’s necessary to do research and ensure that it’s a good fit.


Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a lawyer.

Reputation

The reputation of a firm is something to pay attention to. A good firm will uphold a reputation for honesty not only among clients, but also its peers. It’s also important that the firm has strong drafting skills. Do your research and look for references so that you have an idea of the firm’s integrity.

Experience

It’s important to consider the experience of your representation. Not only should you consider the number of years that a lawyer or firm has been in practice, but also whether or not they have any reported decisions. While it’s important to settle when it makes sense, it’s necessary to prepare for trial when things can’t be settled outside of court. If your case ends up going to court you’ll want to feel confident in the abilities of your lawyers during a trial.

Partnerships

If you are an Australian who is facing legal action from somewhere outside of the country you’ll want to know whether or not the firm has any experience partnering with international, regional, or national firms. Furthermore, if they do have experience find out if the outcomes were successful in those cases. If a lawyer is going to be dealing with laws and lawyers from different countries then make sure that your case won’t be there first time getting that experience.

Results

Ask the firm to see a Case Study or Practice Area summaries so that you can see examples of their work. It’s not enough to seek a good lawyer, find a great one. The track record of the firm you choose should have fantastic results.

Practicality

Make sure that the lawyer or firm understands your financial budget and will settle on a number that works for both of you. Avoid lawyers that make you believe that they’re looking to make a quick buck or aren’t being practical on how they are approaching your case.

Value

Value can go hand in hand with practicality. Make sure that you know what you will be expected to pay for the legal services. Develop a clear understanding of the contract and if you are paying on contingency then know the percentage that you’ll expect whether or case goes to court or settles.

Sometimes it can be difficult to draw a line between personal and business legal interests. That makes it all the more important to have a lawyer with the right experience and confidence to use their abilities to work towards getting you the results you need. It is extremely important to understand the legal position that you are in when choosing a lawyer to represent you.