How easy is it to qualify as a lawyer abroad?

-Not easy………..

Im a qualified UK barrister with over 10 years practising experience, and aged 36. Last year an opportunity arose to undertake some work in Australia.

My mind immediately thought of surfing, golden tans, and evenings spent watching the sunset drinking a nice glass of blush rose on the beach. Little did I know that this was going to be incredibly hard work!

As a starting point there is an awful lot of red tape that you have to get through before you can even assess what exams and studying you will need to do.

You have to pick the geographical area where you would like to practise, and then apply to the local legal admissions board. They will have committees that will only sit at various intervals. So you will need to ensure that you make your application at the right time and not when everyone is away on holiday! There is an academic committee, and a training committee that will assess your academic and practical qualifications attained so far and determine what other subjects you need to undertake.

You then need to decide where you will study the Units. There are a number of universities that offer “in person” and “online” options. I opted for the online options, but just imagine the stress of trying to prepare an essay on company law with complete strangers that you have never, and will never meet again!

Be warned each university will only offer certain units in a Trimester so you may not be able to do them all at the same time (nor would you want to!).

That’s the mistake I made, I decided to do all four units at once, online whilst working full time.


So let’s get to the studying…..? Easy right for a 36 year old qualified barrister? Well, not so easy in my experience. Imagine that it was at least 10 years ago since I last prepared an analytical essay and spent hours in the law library learning about different case law. Imagine trying to find the enthusiasm to do all of this again, but in a completely different jurisdiction…whilst at the same time also getting to grips with a job in a new country.

Further, imagine doing all of this whilst at the same time you have moved to a beautiful country that you really want to explore.

The online lectures are accessible, but difficult to really stay involved when you are not there in person. There is also a risk that you may leave many of the topics until the last minute – which is an inherently bad idea!!!


I am now deep into ‘exam season’. My tan has faded, my dark circles under my eyes from London have returned, and I am feeling overall apprehensive….

Let’s keep those fingers crossed!

Maria is a practising barrister at No. 5 Chambers and co-founder of MediaLawyersUK. Follow MediaLawyersUK on:- www.facebook.com/MediaLawyersUK

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