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Thinking of a career in law?

A lawyer is a highly trained specialist who will give advice on the best course of action a client can take in matters relating to the law. Lawyers work professionally and independently to look after the interests of others. Lawyers trained in New Zealand are qualified to practise as both barristers and solicitors.

Barristers work mainly in the courts and tribunals. Their work includes presenting evidence, making submissions on behalf of their clients, representing parties in criminal trials, handling domestic disputes in Family Courts, dealing with civil claims for damages and compensation.

Solicitors may be involved in general advisory work, property transactions, estates, arranging finance and commercial work. They may also be involved in drafting wills, administering estates, advising on tax, forming companies, making contracts and raising or securing loans.

Lawyers can work as barristers or solicitors and many of them are in private practice. There are growing opportunities to work outside traditional private practice.

To practise as a lawyer you must:

  • hold a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB), from a university: Auckland, AUT, Waikato, Victoria, Canterbury or Otago. This normally takes four years of full time study. For further information about the courses, check out the links to the university websites.
  • complete a practical course administered by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS) or the College of Law New Zealand.
  • be admitted to the roll of Barristers and Solicitors of the High Court of New Zealand.
  • hold a current practising certificate from the New Zealand Law Society.

Students often fulfil more than these minimum requirements and complete a double degree such as BA/LLB, or study for Honours or postgraduate study in law. With these broader qualifications there is greater opportunity in the employment market.

Career options

Legal graduates work in a wide range of areas:

  • private practice
  • parliamentary drafting
  • the public service
  • public companies
  • university teaching
  • the judiciary
  • research
  • law reform
  • local government
  • private companies
  • state-owned enterprises.

Legal Executive

Some people are interested in the law but choose not to train and practise as a lawyer. There are opportunities to work in a number of areas such as a legal executive, court reporter, court registrar or legal secretary.

Until the end of 2016 there has been one formal path to qualifying as a legal executive. The Law Society, through NZLS CLE Ltd, has administered a course of study for people wanting to work as a legal executive. The qualification is the New Zealand Law Society Legal Executive Diploma.

The course will continue in 2017 but in addition, one teaching institution will be offering a new alternative qualification – the New Zealand Diploma in Legal Executive Studies.

Last updated on the 15th December 2016