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Studying Law in Australia

The Law and Legal Education

Author: Christopher Roper, Director Centre for Legal Education

You can study law in Australia at any of its 28 law schools, many with over 100 years of history whilst others are brand new, being perhaps only a few years old. All of them welcome students from outside  Australia - subject, of course, to the  school's academic standards being met. The legal education you would receive in  these law schools is varied. Some, for example, place particular emphasis on  developing practical skills as well as knowledge and understanding of the law.  Others ensure that their students develop a critical perspective on the law,  setting it in economic, political, historical or philosophical contexts. Others, still,  have a more 'black letter law' approach. In Australia, many law graduates go on from law school to seek admission to practice as a lawyer.  To be able to do this, they have to show the admitting authorities in the various States and Territories that they have studied at least 11 areas of legal knowledge. These areas are criminal law and procedure, torts, contracts, property, equity, company law, administrative law, federal and state constitutional law, civil procedure, and evidence. As a result, whichever law school you attend, you will find that it offers these 11 areas of legal study. But all law courses have other optional subjects, with a wide range to choose from, other than the 'core' subjects listed above. When choosing a law school, you might wish to explore the subjects that they offer; for example, if your interests are in the commercial area, you might want to choose a law school with a good range of subjects in commercial law. A description of the main undergraduate degrees in all of the law schools can be found in the Lawasia Directory of Law Courses in the Asia and Pacific Regions. To obtain a copy, contact the Centre for Legal Education in Sydney, Australia (fax: +61 2 9221 6280; email: cle@fl.asn.au). A strong emphasis in Australian legal education is on developing your intellectual skills - to think critically, to write clearly, and to be able to develop and support an argument. It is not about learning things by heart. So although you must be ready to read widely, you would also need to think deeply, and with a critical outlook. If you have already graduated in another discipline, your law degree would be of three years in length. If you have recently finished your secondary schooling, your degree would probably be four years duration. However, a feature of legal education in Australia is that most school leavers go on to what we call a 'double degree': that is, in a five year period a student undertakes two degrees in parallel - one of them law and the other might be Arts, Commerce or Science. You may wish to undertake such a double degree - in fact the law school of your choice may not admit you unless you did so. In that case, you would finish your tertiary education in Australia with two degrees. You would have to pay a tuition fee of at least $10,000 for each year, maybe up to about $13,000. Of course, as well as this there would be living expenses. All of Australia's universities provide assistance to foreign students, including help with accommodation, study skills and so on. There is no central body with which to enrol to study law. If there is an Australian Education Centre near to you (perhaps at the Australian Embassy or High Commission), you can seek their assistance. There is also a booklet, called Studying Law in Australia. It contains a great deal of information on all of Australia's law schools, living in Australia, and the Australian legal system. You should be able to get a copy at an Australian Education Centre. If these courses are not successful, contact the Centre for Legal Education. In Australia, you cannot be admitted and practice as a lawyer unless you have a law degree and have undertaken legal training. This takes the form of a practical training course of up to about six months, during which time you undergo a form of work experience called articles of clerkship. You will need to find out about this further phase of legal training if your plan is to be admitted as an Australian lawyer. If your interest is in undertaking postgraduate studies at an Australian law school, you can find out more about the wide-ranging programs of postgraduate studies in Studying Law in Australia. You can undertake a certificate, diploma, masters or doctorate, depending on the law school you choose and your area of interest.  Fees for these courses are also in Studying Law in Australia.

Author Christopher Roper, Director Centre for Legal Education



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