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Career Options for Lawyers
CAREER OPTIONS FOR LAWYERS
The law is an exciting and surprisingly diverse profession.
Whether you’re a graduate or experienced lawyer, you can work in all sorts of roles and environments – from small businesses, traditional firms and the courts, to big organisations, government departments and community centres.
Below is an overview of the legal landscape and the different directions you may follow.
- Advising clients about their legal rights and obligations
- Assisting corporations and other organisations with compliance
- Preparing legal documents (including wills and contracts)
What's the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer?
Type of Firm
- Private practices
A private practice can be small, medium or large – and it can be based in the country, suburbs or city.
Each type of firm has different opportunities, so you need to clarify your objectives before choosing where to work.
A solicitor’s career path in private practice typically looks like this:
- Practical Legal Training
- Employed solicitor
- Senior Associate
- Sole practices
Unlike other law firms, sole practices have one principal solicitor who owns the practice and employs other solicitors and staff.
Sole practices make up a large percentage of law firms.
Because of the small size of these practices, you are likely to obtain very broad, hands-on experience.
Dreaming of becoming a sole practitioner one day?
You may need to undertake a Legal Practice Management Course to satisfy the requirements of the local Law Society in your state.
- Regional firms
- Regional firms generally offer opportunities not available in city law firms – partly to attract quality employees.
- For example, a regional firm will likely give you:
- More flexible working hours
- More direct and personal relationships with clients
- A wider variety of work
- A faster track to partnership
Size of Firm
- Small firms
With just two to five partners, a small firm will expose you to every area of law that the firm specialises in.
As a graduate lawyer in a small firm, you are likely to have almost immediate responsibility for client briefs – giving you more experience more quickly than at a larger firm.
- Medium firms
With six to 20 partners, medium firms have a broader range of work than small firms and sole practices – but often in more specialist areas.
Generally, the larger the firm, the more specialised your work.
However, you may be able to move from one practice area to another within a medium firm (e.g. from litigation to corporate law).
- Large firms
Large firms have more than 20 partners. They often have very structured recruitment, induction and training programs and complex hierarchies.
Many large firms also run ongoing legal education and training programs, and offer pro-bono initiatives.
Compared to smaller firms, large firms tend to offer a wider spectrum of practice areas – especially in commercial law.
- Have a sound knowledge of the rules of evidence and court procedure
- Determine the appropriate strategy and arguments to be presented in court
- Give advice on matters of law within their expertise (verbally or in writing)
As a barrister, you’ll be an independent legal practitioner – and will not work for a firm or in partnership with other barristers.
- Legal assistants
- Law clerks
- Legal executives
In-House Lawyer Or Counsel
As an in-house lawyer or counsel, you will provide legal advice to the corporation you work for. You will be expected to:
- Hold expertise in your employer’s area of business
- Manage corporate risk and compliance
- Manage change within the organisation
- Bring in external counsel where necessary
In-house roles often cover many different areas of law – unlike private practice where the work tends to be more specialised.
Another key role is company secretary. This is often held by someone with legal qualifications.
community legal centres
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are not-for-profit organisations that advocate for equitable access to the justice system in Australia. CLCs:
- Provide free legal advice, casework and information to the disadvantaged and to those with special needs
- Deliver community development services to local or special interest communities
- Promote law reform and conduct test cases where laws are operating unfairly or are unclear
CLCs often offer PLT placements but also have roles for admitted lawyers
Many interesting legal roles exist in government departments, statutory authorities and regulatory bodies. Both federal and state public services have regular graduate intakes – with opportunities in legal, policy, research and advisory positions.
To find jobs in the government sector, you can:
- Check the Australian Public Service website
- Check each individual government department website
Federal Government Departments That Recruit Lawyers
Delivers programs and policies to maintain and improve Australia's law and justice framework
|Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Conducts independent merits review of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws
Communications and Media Authority
An independent statutory authority that ensures Australia’s media and communications legislation operates effectively, efficiently and in the public interest
|Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Promotes competition and fair trade to benefit consumers, businesses and the community
|Australian Crime Commission
Works with law enforcement partners to improve the ability to stop criminals exploiting emerging opportunities and perceived gaps in law enforcement information
A group within the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department that provides legal services to government – a role that it has fulfilled since Federation.
|Australian Human Rights Commission
Leads the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia.
Institute of Criminology
Australia’s national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice that aims to promote justice and reduce crime
A federal agency that reviews Australia’s laws to ensure they provide improved access to justice for all Australians
|Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
Oversees banks, credit unions, building societies, general insurance and reinsurance companies, life insurance, private health insurance, friendly societies and most members of the superannuation industry
Australia's national workplace relations tribunal
|Family Court of Australia
Assists Australians to resolve complex legal family disputes
The Court is a superior court of record and a court of law and equity
Director of Public Prosecutions
An independent prosecution service established by Parliament to prosecute alleged offences against Commonwealth law
Your key responsibilities will include:
- Attesting documents and certifying their due execution for use in Australia and internationally
- Preparing and certifying powers of attorney, deeds, wills and contracts
- Administering oaths for Australian and international documents
- Witnessing signatures to affidavits, statutory declarations and powers of attorney
- Noting and protesting bills of exchange
- Be a natural person
- Be an Australian lawyer
- Have held an Australian practising certificate for a five-year period
- Have completed a course of study related to notarial practice