February 11, 2022
The new Free Trade Agreement just might make things a whole lot easier if you’re dreaming of practicing law in Australia. Imaan Vaiani shares an insight into what practicing and training could look like in Australia in the coming years.

The new Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the UK has been labelled a ‘world class trade deal’. It aims to set a new global standard allowing for a greater mutual recognition of professional qualifications, as well as a focus on eased mobility options between the two jurisdictions.

We highlight some of the most significant proposed changes.

What Does This Mean If I Want To Train In Australia?

The new agreement will allow junior lawyers wanting to gain work experience in Australia to benefit through Australia’s Youth Mobility schemes. Specifically, British nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 years old can apply for the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program, which will let you train in Australia for up to 3 years, removing the previous requirement of having to undertake ‘specified regional work’.

There may be more additional opportunities for the legal sector from the “pilot new visa scheme for UK citizens that allows early career workplace exchanges for graduates,” explained Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society of England and wales.

You can read more in the Government explainer here.

What Does This Mean For Moving Between Offices?

For instance, global firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills, and Ashurst have a significant presence in both countries, and with this trade agreement in place, moving lawyers between jurisdictions becomes a lot easier.

“We expect to be able to provide more opportunities for our talented lawyers in both directions, which can vary from matter-specific to longer term arrangements,” explained Herbert Smith Freehills Senior partner Rebecca Maslen-Stannage.


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What Does This Mean For Advising In Australia?

UK law firms who are hoping to provide cross-border services will now have guaranteed access to Australian government contracts for the legal services that are covered by the agreement. This includes arbitration, conciliation and mediation, for example.

The Free Trade Agreement also enshrines the right to advise on home-country laws and public and private international law where a lawyer is entitled to practise in their home jurisdiction. This “is an important achievement as it recognises the specificities of home title practice in international legal practice, without the need for mutual recognition procedures and/or requalification in the host country,” explained Boyce.

She added: “Many barriers facing legal services providers are ‘behind the border’ and not suitable for an FTA, such as permitted business structures for law firms. However, provisions of the agreement establish and drive collaboration between relevant bodies – including the Law Society of England and Wales and the Law Council of Australia – through a bespoke legal services regulatory dialogue, and will help address some of the barriers that can’t be dealt with in the FTA.”

What Does This Mean If You Want To Relocate?

This agreement cements an existing arrangement that recognises the professional legal qualifications obtained in the UK, therefore allowing individuals to provide legal services in Australia without having to requalify. The general rule states that a lawyer granted a practising certificate in one jurisdiction is entitled to practise law in every other Australian jurisdiction.

The new Free Trade Agreement means you can make an application that takes into account your professional qualifications and legal experience, instead of completing a a lengthy process that involves sitting up to 11 exams.

Additionally, eased mobility options will allow companies to sponsor visas that are committed in the FTA without an economic needs test, and there will be no limitations on the number of visas granted to those who want to practice in Australia.

However, it might be too early to start packing your bags. The Law Society warns there are still numerous practical barriers that need to be ironed out.

What Does This Mean For The Industry?

Overall, this deal has received a lot of positive feedback from the legal community as it has addressed numerous lingering concerns such as:

  • Providing increased opportunities for Junior lawyers by allowing them practice in Australia for up to three years through the Working Holiday Maker visa that will become open to those between the ages of 18 and 35.
  • Increasing the presence of UK Lawyers globally, benefitting law firms and increasing business in both jurisdictions.
  • Allowing for the mutual recognition of professional legal qualifications, guaranteeing that UK lawyers can practice in Australia without having to face extensive red tape.
  • Easing mobility between the jurisdictions as companies are now able to sponsor FTA committed visas without a test for economic needs
  • Increasing the opportunities for digital trade across all sectors of the economy.
  • Providing for the greater cooperation and collaboration between the UK Law Society and the Law Council of Australia with the aim of addressing the remaining barriers to practicing in either jurisdictions.

Whilst the final agreement is yet to come, it is safe to say this is a step in the right direction for the UK’s legal industry as a whole. We will keep you updated on this topic to help determine your next career move, so watch this space!


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