Many people aspire to become lawyers in order to fight against the system or to protect it. Those who stand by true justice fight for those whose voices can't speak for themselves. They act for change in the world and dedicate their profession to doing so.
Before working on complicated civil rights cases and defending innocent ones in court, there are fundamental requirements for aspiring lawyers to pass before they can step foot in a courtroom.
In many overseas countries, such as the United States, students sit a bar exam that is a two-day test taken after graduating from law school.
General legal principles are tested and students have to answer essay questions on any topic of law. If you successfully pass this exam, you are granted a license to practice law in the state.
In the United States, the students with the best marks in the bar exam are more likely to be offered jobs in major law firms around the country in the years to come.
Although, in Australia, the rules are different. The "bar exam" does not exist so to speak.
In this article, we will run you through the process for those interested in becoming a lawyer in Australia, a profession sought after by many.
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Practical Legal Training (PLT)
After successfully receiving a Bachelor's of Law (LLB) diploma, from any qualified university, aspiring barrister candidates are required to complete vocational training to move onto the next stage of learning.
The relevant state or territories Admissions Authority require students to qualify as barristers through examinations by undertaking the Practical Legal Training (PLT) to ensure professional responsibility from the law student.
Just as in any vocational training course, there are certain entry requirements that candidates for the Practical Legal Training (PLT) must have completed.
The basic requirements to be accepted are as follows:
- Victoria and Queensland permit law graduates to complete a supervised legal training program in lieu of a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. All other states and territories require law graduates to obtain a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice before qualifying for admission.
- You must have obtained a four year Bachelor degree in Law.
The Practical Legal Training vocational program provides a theoretical understanding of the law. Practical legal training provides law graduates with the required knowledge and skills to perform the day-to-day tasks of a legal practitioner. An approved practical legal training course or program must abide by the Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers (the 'Standards'). These were developed by the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council ('APLEC') and the Law Admissions Consultative Committee ('LACC').
The Core Competencies state that every applicant is required to have achieved competencies in the "Skills, Compulsory and Optional Practice Areas and Values" (Required Competencies). Students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Core Competencies and the Rules.
The type of practical legal training a law graduate chooses to undertake depends largely on the admission requirements of the state or territory in which he or she wishes to be admitted. For example, Western Australia is the only state in which an article of the clerkship is accepted as a valid alternative to a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
Throughout the duration of this course, aspiring barristers are taught to look at cases that they will most likely work on at the start of their career.
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Compulsory subjects studied during the program include advocacy, conference skills, drafting, resolution of disputes out of court, professional ethics and criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing.
Through the practical nature of this vocational period, aspiring lawyers will learn the necessary skills to argue in front of a court of law.
Students will have to pass exams throughout this traineeship to ensure that they are meeting the high standards of the course.
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The Practical Legal Training is a specialised vocational program and is not just offered anywhere. Research the options available in your state.
Let's start by saying that the PLT is not cheap! The prices are high for a program that only lasts a year.
Nevertheless, there is no way to skip this step and it is necessary to pass through this stage in order to become a qualified barrister. Let's take a look at some courses to give you an example.
- PLT with 75 days work experience. $9,640
- PLT with 25 days work experience. $11,000
- PLT with 15 days work experience. $11,170
- PLT with online work experience. $11,640
After successfully passing all the written examinations required during this course, students successfully move onto their application to become a barrister.
The PLT program is a bar exam equivalent that truly prepares future barristers for the challenges ahead.
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Apply for Admission to Practice
The next step to becoming a practising lawyer in Australia is to apply for admission into the bar. Once you have successfully completed the PLT program by passing all necessary examinations, you are free to apply.
This is the final step in your transition to a career as a lawyer. You’ll need to also apply for an Australian practising certificate.
In order to be admitted as a lawyer in Australia, you need to satisfy three requirements:
- You’ve completed a law degree or equivalent course
- You’ve undertaken a Practical Legal Training program, which results in the award of the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice
- You’re a fit and proper person.
To practise law in Australia, you need to apply for admission to your Supreme Court.
Each state and territory in Australia has different requirements and processes for admission. The process usually includes providing evidence of your academic and Practical Legal Training qualifications and disclosing details of any conduct that may reflect on whether you are a fit and proper person.
This means you have to declare any misdemeanours you may have committed, even parking fines!
Be aware that some state admitting authorities impose specific, additional requirements for admission – in Queensland, the Legal Practitioners Board requires applicants to advertise in local publications of their intent to apply for admission as a lawyer.
If your application for admission has been successful, you must attend an admission ceremony.
At the ceremony, you will:
- take an oath of office or make an affirmation of office
- sign the Supreme Court Roll
- receive your Certificate of Admission
At the ceremony, your admission will need to be ‘moved’ by a person who is:
- currently on the Supreme Court Roll (whether or not the person holds a current practising certificate), or
- an Australian legal practitioner, provided he or she holds a current practising certificate.
The College of Law provides assistance to graduates of their Practical Legal Training program in arranging a mover for their ceremony.
If you would like assistance in arranging a mover, please contact the College once you have received confirmation of the date and time of your admission ceremony.
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More Information on PLT
The Practical Legal Training course is designed to aid students moving from the academic environment to a work environment.
Future solicitors are taught to use the basics of the profession of law. They learn how to conduct client meetings, make contracts and understand the processes and workplace relationships involved in the law field.
An approved practical legal training course or program must adhere to the Competency Standards for Entry-Level Lawyers (the 'Standards'). These were developed by the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council ('APLEC') and the Law Admissions Consultative Committee ('LACC').
The Standards cover three key areas: skills, practice areas, and values (see below). Each area includes subjects that the APLEC and LACC have agreed constitute essential knowledge for all lawyers.
- Lawyer's skills
- Work management and business skills
- Trust and office accounting
- Civil litigation
- Commercial and corporate
- Property law
+ One of:
- Administrative law
- Criminal law
- Family law
And one of:
- Consumer law
- Employment relations and industrial relations
- Planning and environmental law
- Wills and estates law
- Ethics and professional responsibility.
Where Can I Study a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice to Fulfill the PLT?
- Bond University
- Leo Cussen Centre for Law
- Queensland University of Technology
- The College of Law
- The University of Adelaide
- University of Tasmania, Centre for Legal Studies
- University of Technology Sydney
- UNSW Practical Legal Training (launching February 2020)
Is Funding Available?
With the costs of these legal courses rising each year, many students need loans and government funding to reach the end of their education.
The Practical Law Training program is covered by HECS FEE-HELP the same way your degree is. In Australia, the Commonwealth Government provides loans to eligible full fee paying students to assist with tuition fees.
You may apply for a FEE-HELP loan online while you enrol to an award program such as Practical Legal Training (Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, Master of Laws (Applied Law) or the Master of Legal Business.
Visit https://www.studyassist.gov.au/help-loans/fee-help for all the information you require on getting the help you need to finish your law studies.
If the idea of borrowing money keeps you up at night it would be wise to complete the part-time option of these courses. This would allow you to work, save money and pay for the course while studying.
Lawyers earn a decent salary and once qualified it should be easy to reimburse your student loan.
After reading this article, you are better aware of how the "bar examination" (or its equivalent) is conducted in Australia. It is important to remember that it is not so much a test as it a vocational training period to perfect skills.
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