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.