Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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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

Lawyers and other legal professionals provide legal advice, prepare and draft legal documents, conduct negotiations on behalf of clients, plead cases in courts and tribunals, hear legal and other matters in courts and tribunals, and interpret, analyse, administer and review the law. Lawyers may work in courts, tribunals, for law practices, or for government agencies or other organisations or businesses.

Their tasks may include:

  • receiving written information in the form of briefs and verbal instructions concerning legal cases
  • researching statutes and previous court decisions relevant to cases
  • providing advice and written opinions on points of law
  • interviewing clients, and recommending and undertaking appropriate legal action
  • preparing cases for court by conducting investigations, undertaking research, arranging witnesses, and giving notice of court actions
  • representing clients in court, outlining the facts to the court, calling and questioning witnesses, and making addresses to the court to argue a client's case
  • presiding over judicial proceedings and pronouncing judgments in courts of law
  • acting individually and as members of administrative and industrial tribunals to resolve disputes

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
$26,400 over four years $6,100 over a half year


Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Further costs include materials, 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 has been steady at around 1300 for several years.

Completed qualifications chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2019, the average income for legal professionals was $114,200– 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 2023 2028
11,412 13,683 17,160 19,510
  2.6% 3.8% 2.2%

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 20233 and to remain strong to 2028. 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
26% 9% 2% 63% $67,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of Bachelor Degree - Law.

Three years after completing a bachelor’s degree in law, most 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 $67,000 three years after graduation.

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job vacancies for judicial and other legal professionals has grown more slowly than average since 2013.  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