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.
To become a lawyer you usually have to complete a degree in law at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Students are often advised to undertake a combined degree course that leads to two degrees. The prerequisite subjects required for entry into these combined courses depend on the non-law component of the combined course. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in law. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.
Lawyers may perform the following tasks:
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'.
Solicitors may work in private legal practices, either on their own or in a partnership. They may also work in state, territory or federal government departments, in community law centres or with business corporations. Barristers are self-employed but normally practise in chambers with other barristers. Barristers may be promoted to Senior Counsel and eventually be appointed as a judge. Barristers and solicitors may also become magistrates. Some lawyers do not remain within the profession, and move into administrative positions in commerce and industry or in the public service. With experience, it is possible to progress to positions such as magistrate or judge.
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.
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.
A magistrate hears criminal matters to determine whether defendants will be committed for trial, and judges criminal offences without a jury.
A solicitor may specialise in areas such as property, probate, workers' compensation, family law, personal injuries litigation, commercial law or criminal law.