The Australian study year
In Australia it is summer from December to February, autumn from March to May, winter from June to August and spring from September to November.
Australian undergraduate and most postgraduate courses are taught in two semesters or terms, which amount to about 28 weeks of formal instruction per year.
The academic year normally begins in the first week of March and ends by the first week of November. The Christmas period is the major holiday period for many Australians; Easter is also a major holiday period. The long vacation is always in the Australian summer (December to February).
Some law schools will now accept students for a second semester intake and some institutions run a third semester over the summer which enables students to complete the degree in a shorter time than usual or to re-sit in subjects in which they have failed. Other law schools teach postgraduate courses ‘intensively’, that is, in blocks of days rather than over a conventional semester. Some teach, in part, ‘online’.
General aims of legal education in Australia
Each law school will have its own particular focus as represented by the skills and interest of its teaching staff.
In general, though, it is possible to say that at an undergraduate level, most law degrees aim to teach fundamental principles of Australian law and the ability to apply these principles to client problems equip the student with a knowledge of fundamental legal procedures â€” such as court procedures give some introduction to intellectual skills such as legal research, legal writing and advocacy
appreciate the role of law in society understand and respect the ethical standards of the profession learn fundamental practice skills Graduate diplomas and certificates and coursework masters degrees aim to supplement and extend the candidates knowledge of a specialist area of the law.
Postgraduate degrees by thesis enable candidates to research a substantial question of law under supervision and to present a substantial argument embodying a discussion of the question reviewed and its conclusions.
Law as a vocational discipline
For many law students, the study of law prepares them for work as a practising lawyer. Generally speaking, a person must have a law degree to practise as a lawyer in Australia.
Most jurisdictions also prescribe a period of additional study, after the law degree, at a practical training institution or a period of traineeship, in some States called articles, in a practising solicitorâ€™s office.
A solicitor advises clients of rights and obligations under the law and draws any necessary documentation. Barristers, on the other hand, practise alone and not in partnership. They usually cannot deal directly with clients; they are generally instructed or â€˜briefedâ€™ by solicitors on behalf of their clients. They appear in civil and criminal trials on behalf of their clients and give opinions upon legal questions, including drafting documents, referred to them by solicitors.
Most lawyers practise as either solicitors or as barristers. Solicitors can practise alone, in partnership with another solicitor or be employed in private practice or in government.
There are substantial numbers of solicitors employed by the Commonwealth and State Governments. Large corporations often also have their own legal departments and employ lawyers who act almost as a solicitor in private practice, but with only one client.
Lawyers also work in public interest organisations, such as legal aid, welfare, tenancy advice services and the like.
Law as a general education
In Australia more than a third of graduates with law degrees do not practise law. Law is seen as a good general education for working in business, banking, technology, the property market, construction, public administration, journalism, and many other occupations. Almost all law graduates have a second degree in another discipline, which they undertook at the same time as they studied law or prior to their law studies.