This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Solicitors give legal advice, prepare legal documents and study the details of legal arguments.
Graduate solicitors usually earn
$40K-$45K per year
Solicitors with more than two years' experience usually earn
$45K-$250K per year
Source: Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017.
Pay for solicitors varies depending on their experience, what organisation they work for, and what region they work in.
- Graduate solicitors usually earn $40,000 to $45,000 a year.
- Solicitors with two to four years' experience usually earn $45,000 to $70,000.
- Solicitors with more than three years' experience usually earn $70,000 to $250,000.
Source: Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
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?
Julia Whaipooti talks about being a Māori community lawyer - 6.05 mins.
I'm a lawyer at Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley. I work particularly with Māori clients. At Community Law we give free legal advice. We don't get our money from our clients, which means a lot of clients, a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford legal assistance or who have real issues, would get lost in the system.
Community Law fills that gap. We do get to see people, I get to help people daily with wrongs that they're facing.
I really value the ability to talk with people. The clients that we see are real people. I have to go "OK, there's a huge problem here but where can I be useful? Where can I help with the skills and the service that I can give and extracting the legal issue?" I find that really, there's one part that is interesting but the second part is it can make a real difference in this person's life that I'm talking to.
It's about people feeling like they are heard and valuable as well and that's what I get to do in my job daily and I feel really privileged for that.
Unfortunately Māori are unfairly and disproportionately represented in a lot of the statistics but we are not reflected in the profession and it makes a difference. That's why I'm aware it makes a difference. I don't know all the law, but I can be a gateway for some Māori clients who find that they will open up more – they will tell me more because I'm Māori.
I wasn't quite sure how to go to university. It's not something that was in my family but I knew I wanted to go, but it seems silly now, but it's quite true for me. I actually didn't know – it seemed like a really expensive kind of thing and I just thought I'd go work. And I'd been working at a supermarket the whole time I was finishing school and just by chance I actually ended up, I had a regular customer who was a practising manager at the biggest firm in Blenheim, and she asked me what I was doing and I said "I'm actually going to go work at Mitre 10 'cos I can get full-time work there" and she goes "No I'm not" and she gave me a job at a law firm firstly doing admin stuff. That lasted two weeks and then I became a legal secretary. And then I worked doing that for two years and became quite good at it and then I decided I wanted my own secretary actually, which is kind of funny as I'm at Community Law now and I am my own secretary and lawyer, at this stage.
But, if you are thinking about doing law, don't be afraid to kind of find a tuakana or some mentors or people even if you don't have that in your whānau. I was really lucky to have kind of had that in the beginning and I know when I came to university and law school it was a really foreign place for me, and probably for a lot of people, it felt a little bit uncomfortable like, aw, it's a bit fancy, it's just different from my life. So it can make you feel like I don't belong here. But believe that you do, believe that you do belong where you are.
Find some friends at school. I'm really good friends now with a lot of people that I met at law school and I became quite involved with our Māori Law Student's body at Victoria University, Nga Rangahautira and it really did create a home space for me. And even if you are feeling uncomfortable when you come, you know you're Māori and you may not feel strongly that you're Māori enough, there's no such thing. I've really built strong connections at Law School and in particular with our Māori Law Student's body and I believe it would have been really difficult for me to get through without that support. In a place that felt foreign, you'll be attracted to kind of what looks and feels like you a little bit. And that was my experience.
You might sit in the class one time and in criminal law, I remember quite vividly in second year listening in criminal law about why Māori are over-represented in our criminal system so we fill half the prisons. And being a handful of Māori in that class it felt really uncomfortable, it felt very uncomfortable for me.
There is so much more to law, it's a really solid degree to have. You don't have to practise in law, you don't have to become a lawyer. I'm still questioning whether or not this is what I want to do with my law degree. It's a real solid degree to go into other areas. It can help with working in doing some policy development, whether that's in government or in independent organisations, you learn some really good skills.
Don't think "I'm doing a law degree, I have to be a lawyer." Do the law degree and know that the law degree itself is really valuable. It is useful, but it doesn't limit you to having to work in the legal profession but it does – I think it opens up quite a few doors in different pathways.
Becoming a solicitor
To become a solicitor you need to:
- complete a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB)
- complete a Professional Legal Studies Course
- get a completion certificate from the New Zealand Council of Legal Education
- get a certificate of character from the Law Society
- 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.
- College of Law New Zealand website - information on the professional legal studies course
- Institute of Professional Legal Studies website - information on the professional legal studies course
- New Zealand Council of Legal Education website - information on the completion certificate
- New Zealand Law Society website - information on becoming a solicitor
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, history and classical studies, social studies and te reo Māori.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Becoming a patent attorney
To become a patent attorney you must register with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) and complete a number of approved courses.
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.
Useful experience for solicitors includes:
- general legal work
- research work
- public sector experience.
Solicitors need to be registered with the New Zealand Law Society and hold a current practising certificate.
Patent attorneys need to be registered with the Intellectual Property Office.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Law Society
- (04) 472 7837 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.lawsociety.org.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
Graduates struggle to find solicitor work
New graduates find it difficult to secure solicitor work, and may seek jobs in other areas of law such as policy development.
Your best chances of finding work as a solicitor are in the main cities of Auckland and Wellington.
Moderate demand for experienced solicitors
Chances of getting work as a solicitor are better if you have at least two years of experience.
Demand for experienced solicitors has increased in commercial and insurance law due to high levels of construction, corporate investment, and a strong property market. Between 2011 and 2017 the number of solicitors grew by 11.8% to about 11,300.
Artificial intelligence may impact solicitor jobs
Artificial intelligence software has been created that can find evidence for cases, prepare contracts, identify fraud, research, and make legal decisions. These tasks are usually a large part of what solicitors do. In the short term, technology may help solicitors with their work; in the long term it may replace the paperwork solicitors do. This could lead to job loss.
Types of employers varied
Solicitors may work for:
- general legal firms
- government departments and community agencies
- boutique law firms, which specialise in a particular area of law
- real estate agencies
- Adlam, G, 'Robots Could Replace Lawyers, claims Massey Researcher', 23 June 2016, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Adlam, G, 'Similarities Between New Zealand and Australian Solicitor Demographics', 20 July 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Bolza, M, 'Robots Replacing Lawyers a Near Certainty', 22 February 2016, (www.nzlawyermagazine.co.nz).
- The Law Foundation, 'Research Reveals Changes are Needed to Retain Young Lawyers in this Profession', June 2016, (www.lawfoundation.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Artificial Intelligence and the Law', 20 January 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Snapshot of the Profession 2016', 4 May 2016, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017, (www.robertwalters.co.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Solicitors may progress to set up their own practice or they may become an associate or a partner of the firm they work for.
Solicitors may specialise in:
- competitions and corporate law
- criminal law
- environment and resource management
- human rights
- intellectual property
- public law
- Treaty of Waitangi.
Solicitors may also specialise as a:
- Patent Attorney
- Patent attorneys advise on intellectual property and setting up patents, and help prosecute people who copy someone's patented work.
Last updated 11 September 2017