How to become a lawyer
Discover the steps to go from law school to lawyer
Discover the steps to go from law school to lawyer
Studying law can set you up for a rewarding legal 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 law school, 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:
Tip: The Law Admission Test (LAT) is a requirement for entry to the LLB.
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 for becoming a lawyer and graduating job-ready. Hands-on learning takes place through:
a clinical component working with clients and lawyers at Kingsford Legal Centre, our fully functioning community legal centre that operates on-campus
debating and discussing ideas in our small interactive classes
work experience in our world-leading research centres, such as The Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation, Australian Human Rights Institute, Indigenous Law Centre and Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023
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:
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 within the top 25 globally for employer reputation**. Utilising your well-rounded skills, multidisciplinary 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.
**QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2023
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^.
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 lifelong legal education.
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.
Have you always wanted a career that centres around driving positive outcomes?
Now is the time to join UNSW’s Faculty of Law & Justice. Ranked #1 in Sydney and #13 globally for Law and Legal Studies*, this leading Australian university can help you launch your career in law.
Sharpen your thinking and debate today’s big challenges in a community of diverse students, all striving to be the next leaders in legal practice. Through small seminar-style classes, immersive learning experiences, legal clinics and internship opportunities, you’ll build knowledge and confidence for a career in Australian law.
*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023
The UNSW Juris Doctor offers unmatched flexibility, compared to other Go8 universities. You’ll tailor your studies to your needs, with the option of fully face-to-face or blended learning. The program is designed to bolster your skillset, grow your confidence and expose you to exciting career opportunities. You’ll also be encouraged to explore global perspectives and legal systems through international exchange programs at leading law schools around the world.
Seek fair solutions for the most vulnerable in our community in pursuit of justice for all with the UNSW Juris Doctor.
Making the decision to study at UNSW Law & Justice is an important step towards accomplishing a positive impact. From the first year of your studies, you’ll gain real-world experience within the Australian legal sector and see where life as a legal practitioner can take you.
During your Juris Doctor studies at UNSW, you’ll be invited to learn from and work alongside experienced practitioners who are committed to helping marginalised members of the community. Internships and placements are available at on-site clinics including the Kingsford Legal Centre Clinic, Land and Environment Court Clinic and Police Powers Clinic, or at one of the school's partner clinics and institutes.
You’ll be a part of a group of people creating real-world impact by conducting research into everything from human rights cases to climate change policy and privacy law. You’ll learn from experienced academic researchers who are experts in international law, human rights, the rights of Indigenous peoples, technology law and more.
Refugee justice, sexual assault, the Uluru Statement, and development in Myanmar – all challenges that our ground-breaking research has explored and applied to what you’ll learn in the classroom. We keep focused on current issues so you can graduate from one of the world’s leading Law faculties with comprehensive knowledge and practical skills.
Founded with the ethos of justice for all, our faculty demonstrates this commitment by providing legal services to disadvantaged members of our community. As part of your law faculty degree, you'll get to experience clinical legal education in our community legal centre on campus, Kingsford Legal Centre (KLC).
Our aim is to help you reach the goal of securing gainful and fulfilling employment once you’ve completed your UNSW Juris Doctor undergraduate degree. You’ll benefit from a dedicated careers service that will maximise your employability with exclusive clerkship positions, workshops and resources. Set yourself apart with industry placement programs in Australia or overseas and utilise a seamless pathway to legal practice with UNSW Practical Legal Training.
Legal practice is undergoing enormous change and UNSW Law & Justice is pioneering new approaches to innovation and technology.
UNSW’s Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation partners with leading law firm Gilbert and Tobin for the elective Designing Technology Solutions for Access to Justice, where you learn how to design and build an app to improve access to legal services for the community.
Is climate action a human right? Will global warming lead to a humanitarian crisis? If this is something you’re passionate about, then the UNSW Juris Doctor program will give you the tools to make a difference. Find your answers in Environmental Law or take your knowledge of sustainable development further with Natural Resource and Renewable Energy Law courses.
UNSW Law & Justice is home to a number of centres and institutes that contribute to teaching with their leading research addressing significant challenges of public interest.
Their work leads to real change through advocacy and informing public policy, you can get involved by completing work experience in our world-leading research centres, such as The Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation, Australian Human Rights Institute, Indigenous Law Centre and Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.
At UNSW, we’re all about cultivating future leaders of the legal profession by taking your career to places that reflect your personal goals. Thanks to our career-ready approach, we’ve been recognised for producing Australia’s Most Employable Graduates four years in a row by the AFR*. Undertaking the Juris Doctor program will not only see you learn from leading academics in the field, but it will also give you first-hand experience through industry-aligned coursework.
Professional development is an incredibly important part of making your foray into the Australian legal sector and we provide all of our students with all the appropriate pathways. Whether you’re a full-time or part-time student, UNSW Law & Justice offers extensive clinics and internships, the opportunity to study at one of more than eighty international law schools, a dedicated careers service and a pathway to legal practice with Practical Legal Training.
You'll be equipped to enter the legal profession or pursue a career in a range of industries that benefit from the skills you’ll learn in the Juris Doctor, including law firms, business, media, the arts, science, education, engineering, government and the not-for-profit sector, and many more.
*Most employable graduates (AFR Top 100 Future Leaders Awards 2020,2021,2022,2023)
Dare we say it – all of them. Legal expertise is a highly sought-after skill and, for many organisations, having one or more legal professionals is crucial to business operations. Here are some of the roles and sectors you might work across.
If you have any questions about studying at UNSW or how you can make your studies work for you, contact us below. We’re here to help.