Have you ever dreamed of studying or working abroad in somewhere as beautiful as Australia? Guest contributor and top Melbourne-based criminal lawyer Robert Stary provides some crucial insight into studying and practising law in Australia for British students.
Considering a big move?
With its notoriously pleasant climate, manageable population of just under 25 million people, and urban centres that consistently fight for top spots on world cities’ ‘liveability’ lists, Australia may offer the enviable quality of life worth making a move for.
If the itch in your feet is directing you southward, and a move to Australia is imminent, it’s important to be aware of the legal market, study requirements and environment that will await you in a new country.
Let’s take a look at life studying and practising law in Australia, and explore the key things to consider before making any big moves.
Studying Law in Australia: Starting After School
Of course, the first key factor to play a big part in what your move will entail is the stage you are at in your qualification process.
For students just starting out, you’ll be required to complete all of the same requirements as any other Australian law student and like them, provided you pass, you will emerge as an Australian qualified lawyer at the end of it all.
Legal education at Australian universities consists of a minimum of a three-year degree for those holding a prior undergraduate degree, or a four-year law degree if you don’t have any prior university qualification.
In addition to your general legal education and study of the Australian constitution, your specific areas of study will largely be up to you. Australian law schools have a diverse and rich mix of subjects offered, and these will differ from school-to-school.
Large Australian universities have international student programmes and a wide variety of support for foreign students as they experience life and education in a new country.
As of 2018, the pre-eminent Australian Universities for the study of law:
University of New South Wales, Sydney;
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane;
University of New England, Armidale, NSW.
Why not compare these with our UK universities using our huge university comparison table?
Practising Law in Australia: Starting After University
With regards to moving after university, you’ll need a current practising certificate in a foreign jurisdiction (i.e. the United Kingdom), in order to jump straight into practising law in Australia.
Ultimately, you’ll need to gain Admission to the Bar in the state or territory in which you settle, which will likely require you to sit exams in areas of Australian Constitutional Law, Trust Accounts and Professional Conduct. However, you’ll be able to practise as a foreign qualified lawyer while you study and complete this requalification.
It’s worth mentioning, that post-qualification experience is considered and calculated a little differently in Australia to the format you may be used to. As there is no requirement for a two-year training contract post-university in Australia, most UK lawyers are considered at least one year ahead in post qualified education in Australia than they would be at home.
So you may find you’re more experienced on the other side of the world than you thought you were!
Unsure what the traditional training contract route looks like in the UK? Take a look our our Law Courses guide to compare the two!
If you do have a few years of post qualification experience behind you, and are looking for a city to call home, your best options are to focus on Australia’s core commercial centres – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Firms within these centres are most likely to present significant opportunities for international recruits.
All coastal cities, they each have their own unique identity and draw-cards, but all share the benefit of Australia’s pleasant climate and generally easy-going way of life.
Practising Law in Australia: What Are the Top Firms?
If making the move for international experience and to grow your career, you’ll likely want to focus your efforts on joining a firm within an elite group known as the ‘Magic Circle’.
While the international law experience and size of clients and deals may not match that on offer in the UK, firms in the Magic Circle are likely to offer the best variety of top level legal experience in Australia, and will have a large amount of international dealings, with Asia being an area of key focus.
Find out more about the Magic Circle with our comprehensive guide – including defining moments, top stats and what they look for in candidates!
On the practical side of things, when it’s time to actually make the move, you’ll find Australia to be one of the easiest locations to transition to outside of Europe.
Major Australian law firms have a Visa Quota for on-boarding UK-qualified lawyers, and a tax break is offered to you called the Living Away From Home Allowance.
We’re guessing if you’re considering a move to Australia, a good amount of detail about the Aussie lifestyle has already caught your eye.
With its colonial heritage and place within the Commonwealth, Australian culture and society shares many similarities with what you’ll be used to at home in the UK, so intense ‘culture-shock’ is unlikely.
And while top tier law firms will expect hard work and strong commitment from their employees, the Australian way of life and employment culture places a large emphasis on healthy work-life balance. The average working week for an Aussie lawyer is around 49 hours – which many UK lawyers may find a welcome change!
So, is it time for a big move? If the prospect of spreading your wings and trying a new way of life appeals, Australia could certainly offer the experience, career progression and lifestyle change you crave. Do your research, read up and get moving!