Relocating to Australia from New Zealand
If you are a New Zealand qualified lawyer there are a variety of reasons why relocating to Australia is a recent topic of conversation. With a larger economy, attractive salaries, professional development opportunities, warmer climate, and more complex work there are many variables to consider. Here, we break down specific areas on how to best prepare yourself for when you decide to relocate.
The Legal System
Where New Zealand has a central government, Australia has a federal system with a written constitution that divides both the federal government and the state territories. Each jurisdiction has its own constitution and there are variations from state to state.
There is a difference in Indigenous legal matters between New Zealand and Australia. Some states in Australia have their own legal frameworks for navigating Indigenous land, native title along with separate Indigenous Courts and initiatives to improve their representation. New Zealand has its own relationship with Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. Consider which jurisdiction you want to practice in and familiarise yourself with any differences in the legislation from reputable sources like Federal Register of Legislation.
All of the candidates that we have provided feedback that they have underestimated the differences in legal practice and that it does take approximately 6 months to learn.
Under the Trans-Tasman mutual recognition regime, you’re eligible to fast-track your practicing certificate in Australia if your New Zealand practicing certificate is valid. Again, each state is different. Victoria and Queensland are unique, you aren’t admitted as both a Barrister and Solicitor like in other Australian states and New Zealand. We recommend reviewing each state or territory for the specific practicing certificate requirements:
As Tyler Wren have placed many people relocating to Australia, we can connect you with someone who is able to guide you through the process of applying for your practicing certificate.
Alternatively, you can be given a paralegal or legal executive title temporarily instead. There is not a lot of appetite for visa sponsorship, so relocators would need to be New Zealand citizens.
As with any job search, it can be overwhelming to start with. There are many benefits of engaging with Tyler Wren for your relocation. We have long-standing relationships with a range of top-tier, mid-tier, general practice and boutique firms across Australia. Tyler Wren can also guide you on salary, differences in types of firms, assist with the relocation process, and highlight the areas of the market that are busy. We will tailor your requirements to the right opportunity therefore saving you time attending VC interviews and making applications to roles that are right for you.
Searching for work before relocating to Australia is an absolute must. Firms will want you to start within 6 weeks of signing a contract. Ensure you have all your ducks in a row prior to engaging firms. Please be conscious that some firms offer relocation contributions – but it’s a “nice to have”, not an expectation. In regard to the job market, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane markets are busy, but we have seen the Melbourne market soften. Australian firms would shave off 12 or so months of your post qualification experience, known as post admission experience (PAE) in Australia, to allow for the learning of new legislation and judicial processes. The optimum time for relocation is between 2-6 years PQE as you’ve built your foundations and you’re familiar with your workload.
Types of Firm
Most Australian boutique firms (known in NZ as general practice) are smaller in size and focus on SME commercial clients and their personal legal needs. Mid-tier firms in Australia still provide flexibility for the most part but also have a range of teams dedicated to different areas of law. Top-tier firms in Australia have a range of work and typically have offices globally.
Here’s small sample of roles that we are actively recruiting for in Australia
Please note we have opportunities in most sectors and states so if you are seeking a role in a different area there is likely to be a range of opportunities available to you.
Salary and Benefits – Differences
Those who relocate often receive a decent uplift in salary. Find out more in the Tyler Wren Legal Salary & Benefits guide. The guide is comprised from a range of general practice, mid-tier, top-tier, boutique and commercial businesses across both New Zealand and Australia.
As I mentioned earlier, firms typically shave off 12 months of experience. Do remain cognizant of this when reviewing the salary guide. Most firms have flexible or hybrid work models. If you are less than 3 years post qualification you would be expected to be in the office full time for the first 6 or so months for on-boarding, mentoring and networking purposes.
Superannuation vs KiwiSaver
Australian Super, which is comparative to KiwiSaver, is paid at a higher rate. The minimum employer contributions are currently 11%, and this is set to incrementally increase to 12% by 1st July 2025. When considering an offer, ensure you understand whether the salary is inclusive or exclusive of Super. If the term “package” is used then Super is typically included.
If you have been on the fence about relocating to Australia and need some guidance, we encourage you to connect with Monique Flatman on +64 09 610 5825, Stevie Doubleday on +64 09 930 9828 or Lisa Gray on +64 09 973 5470.