Coming to the Bar


In order to practise law in the Australian Capital Territory, legal practitioners must be admitted to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory under s26 of the Legal Profession Act 2006 (ACT) or another Australian state or territory under a corresponding law. The Legal Practitioners Admission Board is the admitting authority in the ACT.

Before you can apply for an ACT barrister’s practising certificate, you must satisfy Part 2 of the Reading Requirements and Rule 121 of the Legal Profession (Barristers) Rules.

Becoming a barrister takes five steps.

1. Academic Qualifications

Barristers must hold a Bachelor of Law (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD), which require three to four years of study. The ACT has two law schools: the Australian National University and the University of Canberra.

Before admission, lawyers also complete a graduate diploma in practical legal training, which the Australian National University offers in the ACT.

2. Admission

Admission of lawyers in the Australian Capital Territory is dealt with primarily in Part 2.3 of the Legal Profession Act 2006.

A person who meets the requirements prescribed by the above Act and the Rules of Court may apply to the Supreme Court for admission as a lawyer. The relevant rules are the Court Procedures Rules 2006, Part 3.11. These Rules set out in some detail the admission requirements, practical requirements and documentary requirements for admission.

A filing fee of $517 currently applies to admission applications. Queries may be directed to:

The Secretary
Legal Practitioners Admission Board
Law Courts of the Australian Capital Territory
PO Box 1548
Canberra ACT 2601
(02) 6207 1219
supreme.court@act.gov.au

In accordance with s. 34 of the Legal Profession Act 2006, an Australian legal practitioner (an Australian lawyer who holds a local or interstate practising certificate) is entitled to engage in legal practice in the ACT.

The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement allows lawyers from New Zealand to obtain registration for the equivalent occupation in Australia. For further information, contact

The Supreme Court Registry
Law Courts of the Australian Capital Territory
PO Box 1548
Canberra ACT 2601
(02) 6207 1709
scregistry@act.gov.au

3. Practising Certificate as a Solicitor

Once admitted, lawyers who wish to practise in the ACT may either apply to the Law Society of the ACT for a practising certificate to become a solicitor or undertake further study to become a barrister at the private bar.

4. Practising Certificate as a Barrister

Lawyers who wish to become barristers must undertake what is called “reading”. This is a study program comprised of exams and a practical course.

5. Reading Requirements

Exams

To qualify to practise as a barrister in the ACT, it is necessary to undertake an extra study component known as “reading”.

This starts with passing the NSW bar exams. Currently, the ACT Bar Association has approved the NSW Bar exams and Bar Practice Course for the purposes of its Reading Requirements in the ACT. No other Bar exams have been approved:

As of 2016, these subjects are examined in one integrated NSW Bar Examination. It is necessary to pass this examination before commencing the Bar Practice Course.

  • The NSW Bar Exam is offered twice a year.
  • Candidates are required to register for the examination. A fee of $750.00 is payable on completion of an application for registration.
  • The exam is comprised of two 2-hour papers with an additional 15 minutes of reading time allowed for each paper. There is a break between the two papers.
  • Each paper is divided into two equally weighted question books including both short and long answer questions.
  • The pass mark is 75 per cent.
  • The Bar Practice Course must be undertaken within 15 months of passing the examination.
  • Applicants are advised not to give notice of termination to employers until examination results and an offer of a place confirms entry to the full-time course.
  • Admission to the Supreme Court is not a pre-requisite for sitting the bar examination. Admission is a pre-requisite for commencing practice.

Exam information – nswbar.asn.au/coming-to-the-bar/bar-examination
Bar Practice Course information – nswbar.asn.au/coming-to-the-bar/bar-practice-course

After the successful passing the exam, an application for a Barrister’s Practising Certificate can be made to the Bar Council. A copy of the examination results, confirmed by the NSW Bar Association together with the requisite professional indemnity insurance details will need to be included with the application.

To apply to the ACT Bar Association for a practising certificate, you can dowload the form here or please email ceo@actbar.com.au

Reading with a Tutor

Subsequently, the period of reading commences on the issuance of the practising certificate with conditions for at least 12 months. During that time, the reader remains under the supervision of at least one experienced barrister (not less than seven (7) years) who is called a ‘tutor’. A tutor must be a full-time practising ACT Barrister. Senior Counsel cannot act as tutors.

The ACT Reading requirements can be found here.