There's No Place Like Home, but what if you want to Practice Law Somewhere Else?
Choosing to study law as a high school student effectively means you’re putting your future career in the hands of a pimply pre-pubescent convinced that this decision, just like knowing drug-dealing Dan is the one, is a choice that will stick. Chances are your teenage self was more concerned with the perceived power and might of studying law than with the reality of graduating and practicing.
Once you are admitted to practice law in one jurisdiction, you can’t necessarily practice freely in another. Don’t fret if hindsight has shown you that you want to practice somewhere else, though. Sure, there may be no place like home, but here’s how you can make somewhere else seem just the same.
Practicing in Another State
Practicing law in another Australian state or territory is a lot easier than it once was, thanks to the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (Cth). All Australian jurisdictions have now adopted this act, which allows lawyers registered in one state to practice in another state. Once you’ve received your practicing certificate in your home state, you only need to be registered in the second state, rather than admitted. To register you must submit a form and a registration fee to the Supreme Court Registrar. If they approve your application, your name will be put on the roll of legal practitioners and you’ll be able to practice.
Practicing in Another Country
The ease with which you can practice law in another country varies widely between jurisdictions. Assuming you meet work visa requirements in these other countries, here’s how you can practice overseas.
The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997 (Cth) provides the same agreement between Australia and New Zealand as the states act. Under this act, you can practice in New Zealand with your Australian law degree just as you can in your home state.
You must pass a bar examination before being admitted in Singapore. Before being eligible to sit the bar, you must be a ‘qualified person’ and a permanent resident. To be a qualified person, you must have graduated in the top 70% of your class from a university that has been approved by the Attorney-General. Currently 10 Australian universities have been approved; however, non-approved universities can also be included. You must also have six months of legal experience to be considered a qualified person. Once these requirements are met, you can sit the bar. When you pass you must complete a five month course in Singaporean law and a six month training contract in a law firm. These courses aren’t required if you have two years experience. If you have three years experience, you only have to pass a Foreign Practitioner Exam before being admitted.
You can practice with your Australian law degree in England and Wales without needing to re-qualify or complete any further study. There are some restrictions relating to litigation, drafting and the provision of financial and immigration advice, but there is nothing preventing a practitioner with a foreign degree from practicing. Foreign lawyers can also gain qualification in England or Wales by proving two years of practicing experience within the previous five years.
To practice in Canada, you must have your qualification evaluated by the National Committee on Accreditation. The Committee may require you to pass examinations in specific areas of Canadian law or complete courses at a Canadian law school before issuing a Certificate of Qualification. You must also meet additional requirements specific to the province in which you want to work. Every foreign lawyer seeking admission to a provincial law society must complete an articling program, similar to Australian articling programs. Foreign lawyers with significant experience may be offered a reduction in their articling term.
Requirements for admission to practice are different in each state. Generally, you are required to prove that your jurisdiction has provided you with the same knowledge and experience that you would have gained from qualifying in the US. Anyone seeking to practice law in any state must pass that state’s bar exam.
In California, you must show that your degree is equivalent to a JD awarded by the American Bar Association. You must then complete one year of study at an approved law school before being eligible to take the bar. To register you must submit an application form, a registration fee and an application to determine your ‘good moral character.’ If you pass the bar you can practice in California.
In New York, you can only apply to sit the bar exam if your qualification came from a common law jurisdiction. You must successfully complete 20 hours of study to gain academic credit and submit proof of this before sitting the bar. In addition, you must also submit proof of your degree and admission in Australia.
Thinking about practicing in a foreign jurisdiction when you only just feel like you understand your home state’s legal system may seem intimidating and indeed, there may be no place like home. But with barriers between jurisdictions more fluid than ever before, there’s no harm in considering a move.
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