Lawyer

Summary

Lawyers provide advice, write documents and conduct negotiations on legal matters, and may represent clients in court and tribunal proceedings. They are described as solicitors or barristers, depending on the work they do.

Duties & Tasks

Lawyers may perform the following tasks:

  • interview clients to determine the nature of problems, and recommend and undertake appropriate legal action
  • prepare cases for court by conducting investigations, undertaking research, arranging witness preparation and attendance, and giving notice of court actions
  • represent clients in court
  • manage conveyancing and other property matters by preparing contracts of sale, mortgage documents, lease documents and other documents relating to the transfer of land and buildings
  • prepare and critically review contracts between parties
  • prepare wills
  • provide advice on family law, company law, partnerships, commercial law and trusts
  • act as trustee or guardian
  • act as executor of clients' wills

Specialisations

Barrister

A barrister provides legal advice and drafts documents in complex matters. They conduct negotiations and appear in courts and tribunal hearings on behalf of clients. Generally, the barrister is briefed by a solicitor, who instructs the barrister on behalf of a company or private person when a case requires specialist expertise or advocacy skills. A barrister may also undertake research and consult with clients and witnesses. Barristers wear wigs and gowns in some courts, while solicitors do not. It is common to practise as a solicitor for a few years before becoming a barrister.

Judge

A judge presides over civil and criminal proceedings in courts of law, making sure that trials are run fairly, according to the rules of law and evidence.

Magistrate

A magistrate hears criminal matters to determine whether defendants will be committed for trial, and judges criminal offences without a jury.

Solicitor

A solicitor may specialise in areas such as property, probate, workers' compensation, family law, personal injuries litigation, commercial law or criminal law.

Working Conditions

The distinction between solicitors and barristers varies from state to state. In NSW, Victoria and Queensland, lawyers practise as either a solicitor or a barrister. In the ACT, the NT, SA, Tasmania and WA, the work of barristers and solicitors is usually combined, with many lawyers describing themselves as a 'barrister and solicitor'.

Personal Requirements

  • good oral and written communication skills
  • able to understand, analyse and use facts quickly and logically
  • able to work under pressure and deal with a variety of people
  • integrity and good character.

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