Admission to practice
To practise as a lawyer involves admission to practice by the Supreme Court of an Australian State or Territory, and then the obtaining of a practising certificate, usually issued by the local legal professional body.
To be admitted as a legal practitioner in Australia a person must satisfy requirements in regard to –
– legal knowledge
– practical training
– good fame and character
The knowledge requirements involve completion of a tertiary academic course involving 11 areas of legal knowledge specified in the Uniform Admission Rules (generally a four year degree, or a three year degree for those with a prior degree).
A law degree from any of the institutions listed in Studying Law in Australia will cover all of the 11 areas of legal knowledge and thereby satisfy the knowledge requirements specified in the Uniform Admission Rules.
Overseas degrees or courses of study may be recognised by an Australian admitting authority. However, an applicant may be required also to undertake further Australian study, in addition to their foreign qualifications, in order to be admitted to practice.
The practical training requirement is met by completion of an approved practical legal training course and/or articles of clerkship. This period of training typically covers a period from six months to one year.
Obtaining a practising certificate
Practising certificates are issued by the relevant body (usually a legal professional body) in each Australian State or Territory, and may involve a period of restricted practice (ie. a period of work as an employed solicitor) or further requirements, depending on the State or Territory.
The issue of a practising certificate usually occurs on a restricted basis, involving up to 24 months of supervision under a senior legal practitioner, after which an unrestricted practising certificate may be issued.
Continuing legal education to a specified level over a 12 month period is a requirement for renewal of practising certificates in most jurisdictions.
There are no barriers to non-Australians obtaining a practising certificate provided they meet the criteria for admission and issue of a practising certificate.
Practising throughout Australia
After gaining admission and obtaining a practising certificate, lawyers admitted to practice in one State or Territory can apply and be admitted and obtain a practising certificate in another State or Territory under the mutual recognition scheme. However, under the national practising certificate scheme, this is usually not now necessary.
The national practising certificate scheme provides that lawyers entitled to practise in one State or Territory can practise in another without having to obtain a practising certificate in the latter jurisdiction. It negates the need to incur costs associated with registration in the latter jurisdiction under the mutual recognition scheme. The national practising certificate scheme operates in every State and Territory.
The legal profession in Australia
The legal profession is regulated at the State and Territory level in Australia although, as a national legal services market emerges, there is significant harmonisation of rules and procedures. There are law societies (for solicitors) and usually bar associations (for barristers) in all Australian States and Territories.
These professional bodies can be contacted through Australia’s peak legal professional body, the Law Council of Australia, see http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au.
Reinvent Your Career would like to thank the Council of Australian Law Deans where this article first appeared.