How to Become a Lawyer

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Pursuing a career in law and justice? UNSW Law & Justice offers end-to-end legal education, providing all the steps you need to become a lawyer in Australia.

Studying law can set you up for a rewarding career, combining passions for issues facing society, seeking solutions for our communities and pursuing justice for all. Not everyone takes a linear path from high school to become a lawyer, and it’s the different life experiences and perspectives that law students bring to their careers that's invaluable.

In this guide, we’ll break down the steps you can take to become a practising lawyer in Australia, no matter which path you choose to take.

Your first step starts with one of UNSW Law & Justice’s accredited law degrees. As the 13th ranked law faculty in the world*, you’ll be equipped to tackle tomorrow’s big challenges, guided by world-class teachers and an ethos of justice for all.

Depending on your study history, you'll complete one of the following:

Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
  • Undergraduate double degree

  • 5-6 years of full-time study

  • Suitable for high-school leavers
    and those without previous
    tertiary study

  • 26 double degree combinations
    to choose from

Tip: The Law Admission Test (LAT) is a
requirement for entry to the LLB. Find out
key dates and registration details

Juris Doctor (JD)
  • Postgraduate degree

  • 3 years of full-time study

  • Suitable for those with an undergraduate
    degree in a non-law discipline or
    international students with a law degree
    from an overseas institution

In both of our law degrees, you’ll study the foundations of legal knowledge required to be admitted as a legal practitioner in the Supreme Courts of Australian states and territories. These courses, referred to as the ‘Priestley 11’, cover administrative law, civil procedure, company law, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, equity and trusts, evidence, ethics and professional conduct, property law and torts.

You’ll also learn key professional and practical skills essential to becoming a lawyer and graduating job-ready. Hands-on learning takes place through:

Practical Legal Training (PLT) is a requirement for all law graduates seeking admission to the legal profession in Australia. The training develops the skills you'll need for day-to-day tasks as a legal practitioner.

UNSW offers this training program as the Graduate Diploma in Legal Professional Practice (GDLPP), which combines:

  • Coursework (completed as a five-day immersive workshop and 19 weeks online)

  • Work Experience 1 (20 days)

  • Work Experience 2 (20 days) or Practicum

UNSW’s early commencement rule means that while you’re finishing your LLB or JD at UNSW, you can get a head start on PLT. Once you’ve completed the core ‘Priestley 11’ courses, you can seek approval from the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB) to commence PLT early.

Once you’ve completed your GDLPP, the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB) will assess you for a Compliance Certificate on behalf of the Supreme Court. The next step is to attend an admission ceremony at the Supreme Court to take the oath of office or affirmation of office, sign the Supreme Court Roll and receive your Certificate of Admission.

Depending on whether you’d like to practice as a solicitor or barrister, you’ll follow these steps:

Solicitor

  • Apply for a Practising Certificate from the Law Society of NSW

  • Receive a Restricted Practising Certificate, which requires you to complete 18-24 months of supervised legal practice

  • Apply for an Un-restricted Practising Certificate

Barrister

  • Complete the Bar Exam at the NSW Bar Association

  • Apply for a Reader’s Practising Certificate and complete the Bar Practice Course

  • Practise as a Reader with an experienced Barrister as a supervised tutor for a minimum of 12 months

  • Apply for an Un-restricted Practising Certificate

What’s the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

A barrister is a lawyer who works as an independent practitioner trained in advocating for clients in court, cross-examining witnesses and dispute resolution. Solicitors often engage them to conduct these specialist legal services.

A solicitor is a lawyer who usually works for law firms to engage directly with clients, managing their case, providing legal advice, preparing court documents and representing clients in court.

Taking these steps ensures you’re prepared to launch your career as a lawyer. Learn from Australia’s leader in progressive and rigorous legal education that values small classes and interactive learning environments so you can develop your critical and analytical mind, practical job-ready skills and confidence to be a lawyer. UNSW Law & Justice sets you up for a successful and meaningful career with the pursuit of justice and community engagement at its core.

UNSW Law & Justice graduates practise law worldwide and are recognised as 16th globally for employer reputation*. Utilising your well-rounded skills, multi-disciplinary knowledge, and practical experience can make you highly versatile to global employers.

A good first step to an international career is to see if the location overseas is a common or civil law country. It’s important to check the requirements for legal practice in the country you’re hoping to work in, including recognised qualifications, registration/admission and any additional training specific to that jurisdiction. This research will help determine the steps you need to take to practice there. Some countries may allow you to work on limited matters as a foreign legal practitioner using your Australian practising certification without additional accreditation.

What's a career in law like?  

Strong Future Growth 

There’s strong future growth predicted for a career as a solicitor, barrister, judicial and other legal professions. With median weekly pay starting at $1646^ and over 10,000 job openings expected over the 5 years to 2024^. 

^Australian Government JobOutlook 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

A condition of holding a practising certificate is that each year you need to complete professional development. Each state or territory’s law society dictates the amount of CPD required.

UNSW Edge provides a suite of programs for professionals to fulfil these requirements and continue their life-long legal education.

Specialised Practice 

Many lawyers will pursue a career specialising in an area of the law they’re passionate about. Our law degrees (LLB and JD) give you the opportunity through seven electives to get a taste for many different areas of law such as environmental, criminal, commercial, contract, employment, cybercrime, banking and consumer law. Studying law as a double degree or as a postgraduate student gives you an edge with additional disciplinary studies and specialist knowledge to direct your career.

UNSW Law and Justice building

UNSW Law & Justice has been leading progressive and rigorous legal education in Australia for 50 years. Start your journey to a career in law with the law faculty ranked 13th in the world*. Discover our degrees and courses to find the path right for you.

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