It’s never too late to become a lawyer. At CDU, we’ve seen students realise their dream in as early as their twenties, and as late as their fifties. If this is the career path for you, read on as our Dean of Law, Dr. Alan Berman, explains the five steps you’ll need to take to get there.
1. Decide if you’re cut out for Law
Like any big decision in life, you need to think carefully about whether a future in law is right for you. As a legal professional, you’ll spend most days working with people, dealing with detailed paperwork, and pushing your brain to think logically and critically.
Communication skills are critically important for lawyers. Are you dedicated to continually improving the way you write and speak? Do you appreciate the power of language? While you’re studying Law, you’ll be reading and writing a lot.
You’ll also need to be prepared to ‘think like a lawyer’. Are you committed to training your brain to unpick and solve problems logically? It takes focus and practice to be able to leave your emotions at the door and tackle legal issues objectively. While you’re studying, this means being ready to practice, practice, practice and take constructive feedback on board.
(Sounds like you? Read on. Not really? Explore other study options.)
2. Consider whether you want to be a lawyer or gain legal knowledge for another profession
There is a difference! If you want to be a lawyer, there are specific requirements you’ll need to satisfy (more on that below). If you don’t fancy working as a lawyer, but are still interested in the law, a Law degree can take you in many different directions. Remember, you can always change your mind once you’ve started studying.
3. Your first step to becoming a lawyer is to complete a Bachelor of Laws
Every jurisdiction in Australia requires lawyers to hold an accredited Bachelor of Laws degree. The accredited part is important. Check the course description carefully to ensure the degree is accredited by a state Legal Practitioners Board. It will be accredited by the university’s home state. If you’re studying online from another state, that’s no problem. The Legal Practitioners Boards in each state recognises qualifications from other states.
If your degree is accredited, it will be compulsory for you to study:
- The Priestly 11 subjects (lawyer-lingo for the basics in all law). You’ll cover administrative law, civil procedure, company law, contracts, criminal law, equity, ethics and professional responsibility, evidence, constitutional law, property and torts.
- At least three years’ worth of Law subjects, either as a full-time student or the part-time equivalent. Some degrees are four years and include generalist, non-law subjects. At CDU, we know that your time is precious, so we let you start studying the law straight away and don’t ask you do to generalist non-law units. This means you can finish in three years, rather than four.
4. Do your Practical Legal Training Course
Once you’ve graduated with your Bachelor of Laws, you’ll need to complete the Practical Legal Training course to get your Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. This is structured training to help you develop practical, day-to-day skills you’ll need as an entry-level lawyer. The course is offered through The College of Law and can be completed as a mix of online and in person training.
5. Look for a job
Once you hold all the necessary qualifications, your hunt for a job as a lawyer begins. You may want to start out in the Public Prosecutions office, in government, as in-house counsel to a corporation or in a private law firm.
Either way, there are plenty of graduate programs on offer. These are competitive, so you’re encouraged to get a head start while you study by undertaking summer internships or clerkships over the holidays. Also, remember that grades matter, so work hard at uni to finish with a strong transcript.