Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site


Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

With a very large number of law students graduating each year, and a limited number of entry-level lawyer positions, it is difficult for a new graduate to get work as a lawyer. Many recent graduates are getting jobs in other industries instead. Although average income is very high for lawyers, it is skewed by a few high earners, and is not representative of the income new graduates are likely to get.

How to become a lawyer

What they do

Work as a lawyer may include:

  • providing legal advice
  • preparing and drafting legal documents
  • conducting negotiations on behalf of clients
  • pleading cases in courts and tribunals
  • hearing legal and other matters in courts and tribunals
  • interpreting, analysing, administering and reviewing the law

Lawyers may work in courts, tribunals, for law practices, or for government agencies or other organisations or businesses.

Qualifications needed

To work as a barrister and solicitor, you must:

  • complete an approved Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.)
  • complete the Professional Legal Studies Course (around 19 weeks)
  • obtain a certificate of character from the New Zealand Law Society (a person must be assessed as having a good character)
  • be admitted to the roll of barristers and solicitors of the High Court of New Zealand
  • hold a current practising certificate issued by the Law Society

Cost of study

Bachelor of LawsProfessional Legal Studies Course
$24,200 over four years $6,100 over a half year

Average costs in 2015 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. Further costs include materials, legal professional training fees, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

A Bachelor of Laws degree can be studied at the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, and University of Otago.

The Professional Legal Studies Course is run in a number of centres by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies or the College of Law New Zealand. It is seen as the stepping stone between tertiary study and professional practice.

Institute of Professional Legal Studies: 
College of Law:


To work as a barrister or solicitor, you must hold a current practising certificate from the Law Society. Information on how to obtain this is on their website.

The Law Society, Practising Certificate:  

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a Bachelor of Laws degree fell from 1,470 in 2013 to 1,390 in 2014 (down 5.4%).

Completed qualifications chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2016, the average income for legal professionals was $102,000 – but this is skewed by very high incomes at the top of the industry.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Lawyers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2020 2025
12,888 15,216 21,131 25,472
  2.4% 4.8% 3.8%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Legal Professionals”.

Employment of lawyers grew from 2006 to 2013, and is projected to grow at even higher rates out to 2025. This should mean that there will be higher demand than previously for new law graduates.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
12% 19% 1% 75% $48,100

Source: Ministry of Education
*Two years after completion of Bachelor Degree - Law. ‘Overseas’ refers to the percentage of ALL graduates completing this qualification. Other indicators refer only to graduates living in New Zealand.

Two years after completing a bachelor’s degree in law, 75% of graduates in New Zealand were in employment. Some were overseas or in further study, and a very small number were receiving a benefit. The median salary was estimated to be $48,100 two years after graduation.

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job vacancies for judicial and other legal professionals has grown quicker than average since 2008. In April 2016, the number of online ads was 50% higher than they were in April 2008. Note that this category does not include solicitors.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Legal vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek and NZ Law Society websites.

Trade Me Jobs: 
NZ Law Society:

Career path

People entering a law firm may start as a staff solicitor before progressing to associate and partnership roles. A staff solicitor may work in conveyancing, write legal opinions, or appear in court.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level lawyers.

  • Attorney
  • Barrister
  • Counsel
  • Judge
  • Law Clerk
  • Legal Executive
  • Legal Secretary
  • Magistrate
  • Solicitor

Other Information


More information about a career as a lawyer is available on the websites of Careers New Zealand and the law society.

Careers New Zealand: 
Law Society:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of lawyers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

271 – Legal Professionals
5991 – Conveyancers and Legal Executives