How can I get admitted to practise as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand?
Successfully completing your Professional Legal Studies Course will provide you with the practical legal skills and qualifications needed to gain admission as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.
The requirements for admission are set out in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (which substituted the Law Practitioners Act 1982 with effect from 1 August 2008) and the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Admission) Rules 2008.
The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (section 49) provides for three categories of applicants for admission in New Zealand:
- New Zealand law degree holders
- Overseas law graduates and admitted lawyers
- Australian practitioners pursuant to the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997
New Zealand Qualifications
If you hold a New Zealand law degree you need to apply to:
- The New Zealand Council of Legal Education for a certificate of completion; and
- The New Zealand Law Society for a certificate of character; and
- The Hight Court of New Zealand for admission as a barrister and solicitor
Certificate of Completion
Certificates of completion are issued by the New Zealand Council of Legal Education (NZCLE), which prescribes three educational requirements for admission as a barrister and solicitor through its Professional Examinations in Law Regulations 2008:
- an approved Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from a New Zealand university
- an approved undergraduate course in legal ethics
- an approved Professional Legal Studies Course
Note: Your educational qualifications must not be older than 10 years at the time you apply for a completion certificate.
For further information, please refer to the NZCLE Information Sheet.
After successfully completing the PLSC, the College will provide you with a Certificate in Professional Legal Studies. Generally, it takes 3-4 weeks from the course end date for this certificate to be issued, however, if you request the College for priority marking, the certificate can be issued within 5 working days of the course end date. A priority certificate issue fee of $100.00 applies. This certificate is the document you will need to prove to the NZCLE that you have completed the course when you apply to the NZCLE for its certificate of completion.
The NZCLE’s application form is available on its website at www.nzcle.org.nz under Certificates of Completion. You need to submit the following documentation along with your completed application form:
- original degree certificate or transcript
- original evidence of completion of legal ethics
- original evidence of completion of the Professional Legal Studies Course
- cheque for application fee ($45 including GST)
Note: The Council requires 30 working days to process applications for completion certificates. You should also allow additional days for delivery to and from the Council. Once issued, the Council’s Certificate of Completion will remain valid for three years.
Certificate of Character
Certificates of Character are issued by district law societies, on behalf of the New Zealand Law Society. You need to apply for this directly to your local district law society. Contact details for the 14 different law societies are available on the New Zealand Law Society website.
Each society has its own forms and procedures, but generally their vetting processes, which enquire into whether you are a “fit and proper person”, will require:
- references from your referees
- a statutory declaration by you
- your consent to allow:
- the disclosure of any criminal convictions record
- the publication of your name as an applicant for admission
- enquiries to be made of the dean of the law school you attended
Note: Closing dates for applications for Certificates of Character vary from district to district, with larger law societies (e.g. Auckland) requiring two months or more to process applications due to the number that they receive. You should contact your local law society regarding its requirements and closing dates. It is good practice to apply to your local law society for this certificate as soon as you start your course.
Application to High Court
Your application to the High Court for admission as a barrister and solicitor must include:
- an originating application made by the counsel who moves your admission
- a supporting affidavit, sworn by you, which has the following attached documents supporting your:
- evidence of qualifications (Certificate of Completion)
- evidence of suitability (Certificate of Character from your district law society)
- evidence of having paid the required court filing fee ($165 plus GST)
Note: The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Admission) Rules 2008 provides that if the application is to be determined at a hearing in court, the application must be filed at least one month before the scheduled hearing, unless the Registrar allows it to be filed late (rule 5(3)).
You will receive further information about admission, including template documents, during your course.
If you are an overseas practitioner (i.e. someone admitted as a barrister, solicitor, advocate or attorney of a superior court) or an overseas graduate (holding a legal qualification, but who is not admitted to practice as a barrister, solicitor, advocate or attorney of a superior court), you will need to apply to the New Zealand Council of Legal Education to have your qualifications assessed before applying for admission. The Council’s Information brochure, Assessment of Overseas Law Qualifications, is available from the NZCLE website at www.nzcle.org.nz under Overseas Qualifications.
After its assessments of your qualifications, the Council may require you to undertake further university study, the New Zealand Law and Practice Examination, or a Professional Legal Studies Course. You may also be required to undertake an International English Language Test.
Once you have completed the NZCLE requirements, you follow the same process as New Zealand qualified applicants for admission, by applying to:
- The New Zealand Council of Legal Education for a Certificate of Completion; and
- The New Zealand Law Society for a Certificate of Character; and
- The High Court of New Zealand for admission
Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997
If you hold a current practicing certificate in an Australian jurisdiction, the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997 allows you to use that occupational registration as the basis for registration for the equivalent New Zealand occupation.
The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 provides for applications for admission as a barrister and solicitor, made pursuant to section 19 of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997, to be made direct to the High Court.
After admission, you will need to obtain a practising certificate from the New Zealand Law Society in order to practise in New Zealand.