Out of the frying pan and into the library
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
People often describe the jump from High School to University with a proverb – ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. This article instead looks at the transition out of law school, and into working life. Some would describe the jump from University to working life as ‘out of the fire and into an even bigger fire’ (a proverb of my own invention). This applies especially to international students studying in Australia who plan to go back to their home countries to either find employment or undertake further study.
Below are summaries (with links provided) for the various requirements law students have to meet under different countries. Standards for admission into the bar (or the corresponding equivalent) may vary between states. Therefore, plausible to discuss bar admission and I will only recover the requirements to begin work.
Working in Australia
After completing or in some cases during your law degree, you may choose to undertake Practical Legal Training (PLT). This may be done after passing the 11 core units referred to as the 'Priestley 11'. These subjects range from Administrative Law to Torts Law and focus on teaching you the fundamental aspects of the law in Australia. A full list may be found here.
The PLT is run by The College of Law, and constitutes a 15 week course involving teaching participants how to apply the skills and knowledge they learn in Law School under a practical setting. More information may be found in the PLT Handbook, downloadable here. After successfully completing your PLT, the ensuing certificate of practice will grant you the ability to work as a solicitor in Victoria.
Some students studying at Monash travelled from different states within Australia. Generally, certificates of practice will allow you to work as a lawyer in other states. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt as there are variations between jurisdictions. Some states may implement minor changes into the application process such as additional eligibility criterions. When applying to practice law in another state, a search for admissions requirements will suffice. These are typically contained within a state's law society website.
Below are some helpful links.
Being the diverse nation Australia is, Monash consists of many international students. While I cannot cover every individual one, I did my best in going over all the countries I have a reasonable knowledge of.
According to public 'pocket statistics' published by Monash, the 5 countries below make up the largest percentage of the international student population.
For Chinese citizens with an Australian law degree, a national judicial examination is required for practice as a lawyer in China. For those who can read the language or are just simply interested, this is know as the '国家司法考试'. After passing, you will then be eligible to undertake a 1 year traineeship. In a way, this is similar to a PLT where you will conduct work under the supervision of a qualified Chinese lawyer. Once this has been completed, you will be considered a full licensed lawyer under Chinese jurisdiction. At this stage, it is common for many to be retained by their mentor and continue working for them. Otherwise, you can venture off to discover your own independent path, the opportunities are endless!
Unlike China, the process to practice as a lawyer in India is quite simple. If you have an Australian law degree, the only requirement is that this award was obtained from a recognised university. Many countries possess a list of recognised universities and India is no different. A large quantity of Australian universities meet this
criteria including Monash. It is likely that if you achieved a law degree from the land down under, it will be recognised in India. Again, take this with a grain of salt as just like the law, universities are subject to constant review and may be taken off this list. Nonetheless, it is always important to do the research and check your university's acceptance status, I have included a list here.
After getting called to a state bar, you may practice in any state across India without restriction.
For Malaysia, applicants must be 18 or above, a citizen/permanent resident and are of 'good character'.
For Malaysia, applicants must be 18 or above, a citizen/permanent resident of Malaysia and are of “good character”. They must also have received a qualification from a recognised institution. Click here for the list of recognised universities.
Applicants must additionally do a pupillage under a law firm, or a practising lawyer. These vary in duration, with a minimum of at least a period of 9 months. Many firms in Malaysia take in large batches of pupils, and opportunities can be found periodically every few months.
For Singapore, applicants must be 21 or above, a citizen/permanent resident of Singapore and be of “good character”. Applicants must also have
received qualification from a list of approved universities. The Singapore Institute of Legal Education has set out a list here. Applicants have academic requirements such as being in the top 70% for academic performances out of the total number of graduates for that year.
Additionally, they must also undertake a national examination referred to as the Part A Singapore Bar Examination. This exam tests examinees on the 5 following subjects: Company Law, Criminal Law, Evidence Law, Land Law and the Singapore Legal System.
After passing their part A or concurrently with studying for the exam, they must complete at least 6 months of relevant legal training (RLT) attached to either a law firm or a practising lawyer. Many overseas graduates undertake extra lessons while studying for the part A examinations to better prepare.
After completing both their Part A and RLT, applicants may practice law as a solicitor. To be called to the bar, applicants must complete a further Part B examination.
For Indonesia, applicants must be a an Indonesian citizen, at least 25 years of age, not be working as a civil servant or state official and be of good character. They must also have never been found guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment of at least 5 years (so no murdering that one friend who steals your notes).
While Indonesia does not have a list of recognised universities, they require all graduates from any law school to take a special education for advocates course, run by the Indonesian Bar Association.
Indonesia also requires applicants to be called to the bar to p
ractice in or outside the Courts, as they do not distinguish between solicitors and barristers. To be called to the bar, applicants must have interned continuously for two years at a Law office and pass a national bar exam run by the Indonesian Bar Association.
Of the five above countries, none allow foreigners to be called to the bar and practice. However, that is not to say that there are no opportunities for foreigners to work in the legal field.
Given the globalised state of the world, many countries have firms looking to expand overseas, or firms that already deal with international or foreign matters. As a foreigner, one would still be able to work on such matters as foreign representatives and still be able to practice in those countries, albeit being restricted to working on these matters. However, do note that work visa requirements and some qualification requirements to regulatory bodies still apply.
Calling back to the proverb (of my own invention), hopefully the brief insight this article provides turns the ‘fire’ down a few notches for those transitioning out of law school and into the legal sector. Whether its those coming in, those
struggling through, or those graduating from law school, here’s wishing everyone the best in all future endeavours!
Written by Ryan Foo