How to practise law in Australia for foreign lawyers

A group of foreign lawyers practising law in Australia.
A group of foreign lawyers practising law in Australia.

Are you an internationally-qualified lawyer curious about practising law in Australia? There are a number of practising foreign lawyers in Australia, but navigating the process to become one can be overwhelming.

Here’s the good news: with the right guidance and understanding of the steps required, foreign lawyers can smoothly transition to Australian practice and effectively carve out a strong career path in the future legal industry.

A practising certificate is required for any candidate to become a practising lawyer in Australia. Broadly speaking, the process for foreign-qualified lawyers to secure one involves being assessed by the relevant Australian state or territory’s law admission board and then completing any individual units of study in Australia required to qualify.

Individual pathways and academic requirements will vary, depending on which country you’ve been certified in, which qualifications you’ve already completed and what professional legal experience you’ve had.

Our team at University of Canberra are often asked how to practise law in Australia for foreign lawyers. This guide is designed to answer the most common questions prospective students have to help you make the most informed decision to advance your legal career in Australia.

Can foreign lawyers practise law in Australia?

In short, yes. Foreign-qualified lawyers in Australia are able to practise in this country, but you must first meet several requirements – and obtain a practising certificate –  in order to do so. Below, we walk you through the steps to become a foreign-qualified lawyer practising in Australia.

How to practise law as a foreign lawyer in Australia

To become one of the many foreign lawyers in Australia who can practise, you must be granted a certification from the state or territory you wish to practise law in. Successfully obtaining this certification involves a number of key steps, which may vary slightly depending on which country you’ve originally been qualified in and the professional legal experience you have.

These steps are outlined in further detail below.

Begin your application

The first point of call is to initiate your application with the relevant state or territory law admission board. Because every state and territory has different laws and jurisdiction in Australia, there isn’t one board for the whole country. The relevant admission boards for each state and territory are as follows:

While there may be slight variations between each region’s application form, all of them will require you to compile evidence of your legal studies and practice experience. This typically includes original academic transcripts and detailed records of your professional legal background. Be prepared to pay a prescribed fee, which is generally around A$300.

Be assessed by the state or territory law admission board

Your application will then be assessed to determine whether your existing qualifications and experience meet the prescribed academic requirements for admission to practise law in Australia. The assessment can take up to 12 weeks.

Additional study is required for many foreign lawyers in Australia, often in the form of the ‘Priestley 11’ subjects. These are the fundamental areas of Australian law, including:

  • Administrative Law
  • Civil Procedure
  • Company Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law and Procedures
  • Equity (including Trusts)
  • Evidence
  • Professional Conduct
  • Property (Real (including Torrens System Land) and Personal)
  • Torts

For foreign jurisdictions with similar systems, some subjects may be exempted – so ensure you have clear direction from the relevant legal admissions board before enrolling in any Australian subjects.

Undertake further academic study

If the assessment indicates that further academic study is required, you can complete these units at any accredited Australian tertiary institution offering a law course.

Many law admission boards offer a Diploma in Law (AQF level 5) course to cover the required units. If you’re unsure whether the subjects you’re looking at will qualify, you can apply for a prospective assessment of the proposed study to ensure it meets admission prerequisites.

For lawyers looking to complete further academic study with flexibility and a point of difference, University of Canberra’s (UC) online Juris Doctor (JD) program offers all of the Priestley 11 units. All of the subjects have been assessed to meet the prerequisites for admission to practise Australian law and the prestigious postgraduate qualification can open high-paying doors to top-tier firms after graduation.

English requirements for practice

Most law admission boards require proof of English proficiency for legal practice. However, if you completed your law degree at a foreign law school that is accredited in Australia, you might be eligible for a standard exemption from this requirement.

The power to make a difference with the University of Canberra

UC’s online Juris Doctor (JD) program provides the perfect gateway to a global legal career for foreign lawyers who need to meet the academic requirements for practising law in Australia. The fully certified postgraduate degree covers the essential areas of Australian law to ensure graduates are fully equipped to make a lasting impact in the legal industry.

Delivered 100% online to support busy and working professionals, the flexible program allows you to balance study with personal commitments as you obtain all of the expertise and qualifications required to take your legal career to the next – international – level.

Juris Doctor program features

  • Comprehensive curriculum: Covers the ‘Priestley 11’ subjects and other essential areas of law.
  • Flexible 100% online learning: Study at your own pace while continuing to work full-time.
  • Supportive learning environment: Access to experienced legal professionals and a supportive online community.
  • Pathway to practise: Designed to meet the requirements set by law admission boards, providing a clear pathway to practising law in Australia.

Ready to learn more about practising law in Australia and how the University of Canberra's online Juris Doctor might help you get there? Find out more on our website.

Related study options