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ADMISSION TO THE BAR - a guide
WANT THE LOW-DOWN ON ADMISSION IN NEW ZEALAND?
LOOK NO FURTHER!
In order to practise law in New Zealand, you need to apply for admission to the bar.
The process is quite complicated, so to help you through it, we've put together this overview.
The admission process takes approximately 3 months after completing your Professional Legal Studies Course (PLSC, or Profs). Some fast-tracking options are available if you really need them, but we encourage you to plan your admission carefully, especially its timing. You should consult the relevant authorities if you need clarification.
Please note that all advice given on this page is general.
THE ADMISSION PROCESS - A BRIEF OVERVIEW
2. Apply for a NZCLE Certificate of CompletionAdministered by the Council of Legal Education (NZCLE), the NZCLE Certificate of Completion confirms that you have completed your legal education requirements.
3. Obtain a Certificate of CharacterObtain a Certificate of Character from the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS). Ensure that your application is filed within the advertised window of time for the admission ceremony of your choice (as set out on the NZLS website).
4. Apply to the High Court for admissionBefore applying to the High Court, ensure you have organised a moving counsel and apply by the advertised filing deadline (as set out on the NZLS website). This is usually 4 weeks before your chosen admission ceremony.
1. Complete a Profs course
First, you must complete a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) approved by the NZCLE. All New Zealand universities that offer an LLB are approved.
To be admitted as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand, you must also complete a Profs course. Profs equips you with the practical skills to thrive as a new lawyer, building confidence as you sharpen your legal skills and solve real-life scenarios.
Profs at the College of Law teaches you to:
- interview and advise clients
- communicate effectively with colleagues, clients and others
- prepare for and appear in court and advocate for your clients
- draft documents used in legal practice
- research and analyse the law in a practical way, to solve client problems, and
- negotiate with confidence.
Once you have completed your Profs course, you will receive a Profs Certificate of Completion, which is an essential step on your pathway to admission.
2.APPLY FOR A CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION
The Profs Certificate of Completion and the NZCLE Certificate of Completion are separate documents. The Profs certificate confirms that you have completed Profs; you need that in order to apply for and obtain the NZCLE Certificate of Completion. As noted above, this is administered by the NZCLE and is a crucial step. Here's what you need to do to get the NZCLE Certificate of Completion:
- Fill out the application form.
- Provide proof of payment and certified copies of your university transcript, Profs Certificate of Completion, and proof of identity (birth certificate or passport).
Note: certified copies must be certified by a Justice of the Peace, Solicitor of the High Court, Notary Public, or Deputy Registrar of a court.
The certificate takes 6-8 weeks to process, but there's an option to fast-track to 8 days for an additional cost.
3. OBTAIN A CERTIFICATE OF CHARACTER
To be deemed "fit and proper" for the legal profession, you must acquire a Certificate of Character from your local NZLS branch. This certificate, which is valid for 3 months from its date of issue, reflects your suitability to be admitted into the legal profession.
The processing of the Certificate of Character takes some time, so you need to ensure your chosen admission date works with the times mentioned below.
You must provide the following details to your local NZLS branch within the window of time advertised on the NZLS website. This is usually no later than 16 weeks before your admission ceremony of choice:
- If you have any criminal convictions, provide a comprehensive criminal conviction history.
- Pay the application fee.
We encourage you to read the Certificate of Character application form thoroughly, especially in relation to referees.
Once you have consulted with your referees, ensure each referee sends or drops off their signed reference form to the NZLS branch you applied through.
NZLS will review all your documents to ensure you are a suitable candidate. Once you have met all requirements (including the background check), your Certificate of Character will be issued and available for you to collect from the NZLS branch through which you applied.
4. Apply to the High Court
With your Profs training, Certificate of Completion, and Certificate of Character in hand, you are now ready to apply for admission to the High Court. Here's how to do it:
- Prior to application, select a moving counsel who will request your admission before a judge. This is usually an individual holding a current practising certificate, though retired legal practitioners can apply for a temporary practising certificate. If you cannot find an appropriate moving counsel, you can arrange one through your local NZLS branch.
- File an application for admission with the High Court before the advertised filing date. This is usually 4 weeks before your chosen admission date. As part of this process, you will need to file, in the High Court, forms LA1, LA2, and LA5 either in person or by courier.
- Form LA1 is an originating notice of application. You need to prepare the notice and then have it signed by your moving counsel.
- Form LA2 is your affidavit in support of your admission. You need to draft it and arrange to sign it in front of a qualified witness (such as an independent solicitor). Ensure that you include as exhibits the certified copies of your NZCLE Certificate of Completion, Certificate of Character, and proof of payment as required by form LA2.
- Form LA5 is the order of admission. A sealed copy will be returned to you after your admission ceremony
5. pre and post-admission ceremony
Your hard work is about to culminate in your admission ceremony - a momentous event that requires careful planning and preparation.
For the ceremony, you must wear the appropriate attire:
- either full traditional courtroom garb: wig, bands, white shirt, and barrister’s gown, or
- just a gown (no wig, no bands) over neat clothing (white shirt and tie for men and equivalent dress for women).
If you need to, you can hire appropriate attire from Academic Dress Hire.
The admission ceremony typically consists of moving counsel requesting your admission before a judge. You will be in the courtroom. The Registrar will call your name, and your moving counsel will then stand up and formally "move" for your admission. Following this, you will be required to take an oath or affirmation. This marks your formal admission to the bar as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.
Other aspects of the ceremony vary depending on location and the number of candidates being admitted.
After the ceremony, your admission journey isn't over just yet. Ensure you:
- hand in your sealed order for admission (form LA5) to the High Court, and
- obtain an official practising certificate from NZLS. This certificate is a mandatory prerequisite for the practice of law and must be renewed annually.
Congratulations! You are now officially a lawyer in New Zealand. This is a momentous achievement, and you should be proud of your dedication and hard work. Enjoy your journey to becoming a legal practitioner!
- Admission dates are few and are ceremonial, similar to graduations.
- Whenever you encounter uncertainties or require clarifications during the process, always reach out to the relevant authorities.
- Most employers don't require immediate admission, so plan your ceremony date to fit your other commitments.
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD WITH A GDLP OR LLM (APPLIED LAW)
Our Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP) is an internationally recognised qualification that builds on your experience gained during Profs. After completion, you will gain one subject credit towards our LLM (Applied Law) programme.
Want to master your specialisation or accelerate your learning in a new area of practice? Our Master of Laws (Applied Law) is designed to enhance your on-the-job skills and give you the edge you need to take your career to the next level. Choose from four practice area majors; Criminal Law, Family Law, In-house Practice, and Wills, Estates & Trusts.
How long is the admission process?
As a generalisation, the admission process takes approximately 3 months after completing Profs. There are some fast tracking options available if needed, however we encourage you to ensure you properly plan your admission and consult the relevant authorities if you need any clarification.
Do I have to apply for my Profs Certificate of Completion?
If you studied Profs with the College, the Certificate of Character will be sent to you automatically so long as you met all requirements. If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
When can I apply for my Certificate of Character?
You can apply for the Certificate of Character with NZLS if you are less than 2 weeks away from your Profs finish date.
Can I fast track my Certificate of Character?
No, you cannot. Ensure you submit your Certificate of Character application to NZLS within the required window of time, usually no later than 16 weeks before your chosen admission ceremony. Remember that the certificate is only valid for 3 months from the date of issue.
What happens if NZLS does not deem me as "fit and proper"?
I am struggling to find a moving counsel. What are my options?
Where can I rent admission attire?
Appropriate attire can be hired from Academic Dress Hire.
Can I get admitted remotely?
In certain cases, yes. Consult with the High Court regarding this.