If you decide to practise law, there are a whole range of positions you could work in:

  • Solicitor
  • Barrister
  • Magistrate
  • Judge

The legal profession in Australia is divided into solicitors and barristers (the same as the UK). On the other hand, lawyers in the USA are called attorneys and there is no division of the legal profession.

Court House

Solicitor

Solicitors spend most of their time outside the court. Their role is to draft up contracts/legal documents, give legal advice to clients and manage the daily legal affairs of clients. They may sometimes represent clients in court. When someone has a legal issue, a solicitor is the first person they will contact.

Solicitors may work in a law firm, a legal department of a company, in a government department or a non-profit organisation.

Areas of specialisation include:

Commercial law involves the laws that businesses must abide by when conducting commerce and trade. Commercial lawyers are involved in various areas such as: ensuring businesses comply with laws, transactions, contracts, employment law and protection of intellectual property.

There are opportunities for practising commercial law at law firms, or as an in-house lawyer at a corporation/organisation.

There are two types of criminal lawyers: prosecution lawyers and defence lawyers.

Defence lawyers represent clients who have been charged with a crime, while prosection lawyers present the case against the defendant.

Defence lawyers will work at private firms, while prosecution lawyers are hired by the state or federal government and are part of the public service.

Family lawyers assist with matters such as divorce, parenting arrangements, division of property and marriage agreements.

Human rights lawyers are involved in defending rights of individuals and are also at the forefront of social justice and policy decisions.

Human rights lawyers work in a variety of organisations such as: UN agencies (e.g. UNHCR), Amnesty International, and other NGOs.

IP lawyers help clients protect intangible assets such as books, music, software and inventions. They also assist in resolving intellectual property disputes. As the world moves towards a more technological future, IP law is a growing field of law.

IP lawyers may work for corporations to help businesses protect their intellectual property or may work for public organisations such as IP Australia.

International law involves treaties and other agreements between countries around the world. Lawyers in this field may find work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or NGOs involved in international work.

 

Barrister

Barristers spend their time inside the courts, advocating for clients. Solicitors brief the barristers on the specifics of a case, then the barrister advocates for the client in a trial.

In court, they cross-examine witnesses, produce evidence and plead for their client’s case.

Barristers tend to specialise in specific areas of law and are mostly self-employed.

Judge or Magistrate

Magistrates preside over local courts, while judges preside over higher courts (e.g. district court, supreme court and High Court).

Judges and magistrates are lawyers who have practise law for a number of years and have gained extensive knowledge of the law. They are appointed by the Governor of each state, after the recommendation by the Attorney-General.

A lawyer can nominate themself or someone else can nominate them for the position. A potential judge must display strong legal knowledge, relevant legal experience, excellent communication skills, and integrity of character.

How do I become a lawyer?

If you are interested in becoming a lawyer and pursuing a legal career, click here to find out more about the process of graduating from law school to entering the legal profession.