Admission to Practice

by | March 10, 2009

Finished studying? Not yet!

The rules for admission to practice differ in each state in Australia. Currently, all states except Western Australia require students to complete Practical Legal Training (PLT), in which they learn basic skills undertaken by lawyers, including negotiation, dispute resolution, drafting letters and interviewing clients. PLT courses generally cost around $8,000, and are run by private providers such as the College of Law or the Leo Cussen Institute. These courses are also run by a number of law schools, either concurrently with the law degree or as a separate course.

Often people undertake this training while being employed by a law firm as a graduate. Graduate positions are very prestigious and incredibly competitive, as the employing law firm usually pays for the practical training in full. Once the practical training is complete, law candidates can then apply to be admitted to legal practise in the state they completed their graduate training in. The admission to practise is a lifelong privilege and can only be revoked in cases of misconduct or criminal convictions. In addition, the newly admitted lawyer must obtain a practising certificate from the state or territory in which they live. This certificate lasts for a finite amount of time and must be renewed regularly.

In Western Australia, the articled clerkships system is still available as an alternative to undertaking PLT. In this system, articled clerks must work in a law firm for a year under the supervision of a senior lawyer. After this period, they can seek admission to legal practice. However, these programs are falling out of favour, as they are counter to the Australian national guidelines for admission to legal practice.

The Australian legal system hews closely to the British system in the division between solicitors and barristers. In most states and territories, there is no legal restriction on what type of work solicitors or barristers can do; barristers are simply specialised advocates who are hired for their expertise in appearing before a court. In the states of New South Wales and Queensland, lawyers can practise as either a solicitor or a barrister. Meanwhile, in Western Australia, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania, there is no defined separation of legal roles. Luckily, for lawyers who become qualified in one state or territory but then move to another, all states offer mutual recognition for Aussie-qualified lawyers as well as for those who obtained qualifications in New Zealand. However, lawyers with non-Australian qualifications moving to Australia from abroad usually require sponsorship before they can practise.

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