- Department of Labour, 2003-2010 Occupation Data (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2011.
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Legal Salary Survey 2011,' accessed February 2012, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Snapshot of the NZ Legal Profession', accessed March 2012, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
Solicitor - Job opportunities Alternative titles
Solicitors carry out legal work on behalf of clients, including giving legal advice and studying the details of legal arguments.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Pay for solicitors varies depending on their experience, the size of the law firm they work in, and the region they work in.
- Graduate solicitors usually earn between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
- Solicitors with one to three years' experience usually earn between $45,000 and $95,000.
- Senior solicitors with at least five years' experience usually earn between $90,000 and $175,000.
What you will do
Solicitors may do some or all of the following:
- give legal advice to clients, including families, businesses and individuals
- research and study details of the law and examine legal arguments
- prepare legal documents such as wills and affidavits
- prepare and advise on paperwork for property or business deals
- handle clients' funds
- instruct barristers to appear in court on behalf of clients.
Skills and knowledge
Solicitors need to have:
- knowledge of New Zealand laws and the legal system
- knowledge of the way courts work
- legal research skills
- skill in researching, interpreting, analysing and evaluating information
- negotiating skills
- writing skills.
- usually work regular business hours but may need to work evenings and weekends doing research
- work in offices and courts
- may travel to attend conferences and meetings.
What's the job really like?
Josie Simpson - Solicitor
Josie Simpson became a solicitor because it looked appealing on the television programmes. "I think I watched too much LA Law as a child and I thought it sounded really exciting, but in actual fact it's nothing like the TV programme!" However, Josie still really enjoys her job, and specialises in commercial and property law. "The commercial side is when I look over a contract that people have got with each other and give them advice. The property side is to do with personal property – buying and selling houses, making wills, setting up trusts and things like that."
Teamwork makes a high stress job manageable
Josie says most of her time is spent on the telephone or in meetings with clients. This leads on to research, letter writing and conversations with other lawyers. One of the highlights for her is the close contact with colleagues that this generates. "I like it when we've got one of those tricky problems we have to work out and we're all working together to solve it." She says the biggest pressure in her job comes from time constraints. "You have to be good at handling stress because everything happens very quickly, especially with emails, so you have to manage your workload and meet deadlines."
To become a solicitor you need to have a Bachelor of Laws, which includes a course in legal ethics. After gaining your degree, you must complete a Professional Legal Studies course to be admitted to the roll of Barristers and Solicitors of the High Court of New Zealand.
- Institute of Professional Legal Studies website - read more about the Professional Legal Studies course
- The College of Law website - information on professional legal studies courses
Some universities require NCEA Level 3, or an A or B Bursary.
Essay-based subjects such as English, history and classical studies are useful. Maths and accounting are useful for commercial and tax law.
In 2008 the Law in Schools Project was introduced to provide Year 13 students with a basic introduction to the New Zealand legal system.
Solicitors need to be:
- able to think on their feet
- good at working under pressure
- ethical, responsible and able to keep information private
- good problem solvers
- well organised
- good communicators.
Greg Stewart - Solicitor
Useful experience for solicitors includes:
- general legal work
- research work
- public sector experience.
Solicitors must hold a current practising certificate, which is issued by the Law Society.
Patent Attorneys must be registered with the Intellectual Property Office.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
years' training required
What are the chances of getting a job?
The number of solicitors has grown by 5% between March 2010 and March 2012. Because it is a large occupation, gaining a job as a solicitor is good for those with experience.
However the number of graduates greatly exceeds the number of entry-level solicitor jobs available, so competition for entry-level solicitor positions is high.
Opportunities depend on what area of law you specialise in
Company/commercial law is the largest area of law, with over 17% of all solicitors spending at least half their time in this area. Company/commercial law, civil litigation and insolvency are experiencing growth, so more vacancies arise in these areas.
However, areas of law such as property, employment and conveyancy have experienced a decline, and vacancies are limited.
Higher demand for solicitors in rural areas
Small rural law firms often find it hard to fill vacancies when workers leave or retire, so you may find it easier to get work in rural areas.
Types of employers varied
Solicitors may work for:
- general legal firms
- government departments
- boutique law firms, which specialise in a particular area of law
- real estate agencies
- companies (as in-house counsel).
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Progression and specialisations
Solicitors may go into sole practice or work towards becoming an associate or a partner of the firm they work for.
Solicitors may specialise in areas such as:
- Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) law
- administrative/public law
- banking and finance law
- criminal law
- employment law
- environmental law
- family law
- tax law.
Solicitors may also specialise as a:
- Corporate/Government Lawyer
- Corporate or government lawyers are lawyers who work in-house for the government or a company. They do not work for different companies, instead dealing only with the matters of their employer.
- Patent Attorney
- Solicitors can choose to specialise in intellectual property by sitting a series of exams through the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ).
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 5 Dec 2014