Becoming a lawyer overseas
All countries have their own regulations for practising law. Always ensure you check these before moving overseas.
• The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
• The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessment website — The SQE is provided by Kaplan SQE Ltd, working with, and on behalf of, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This website provides information about the SQE, assessment arrangements and registration. It does not provide preparation and training courses for the SQE, which although not required, are available through other providers.
The New Zealand Law Society is currently in the process of making an application to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for an exemption for NZ qualified lawyers from having to complete Part 2 of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. For information about making an individual exemption application, please refer to the links above.
Advice from the New Zealand Legal Council: NZLS | Working overseas (lawsociety.org.nz)
United States of America
The USA have a fundamentally different legal system to New Zealand, therefore making the transition between the two jurisdictions rather challenging. Moreover, each state has their own bar exam and therefore different rules around prerequisites for admission.
The general rule is that a Master of Laws or a Juris Doctor Degree is required to be eligible to sit the state bar exam; this is applicable to 34 out of the 50 states. The two notable exceptions are New York and California where registered lawyers of common law jurisdictions may sit the state bar exams without any further qualifications.
It is worth noting that, as every state has different requirements, it is imperative that you look up the relevant requirements for your desired state before applying to sit the bar exam.
If you hold a valid practising certificate in New Zealand, it is a simple to process to begin working in Australia. Under the Trans-Tasman mutual recognition regime, New Zealanders are eligible for a fast track process to obtain a practising certificate in Australia.
In all the Australian state and territory jurisdictions, except Victoria and Queensland, pratitioners are admitted as both barristers and solicitors (like they are in New Zealand). The application process will vary between the different Australian states, so it is best to check the relevant procedures in the state you wish to work before applying.
Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong operates under a common law jurisdiction. A New Zealand Lawyer may register as an overseas lawyer in Hong Kong after gaining two years of post-qualification experience in your home jurisdiction, being of good character, and passing the Barrister Qualification Exam (BQE).
To be able to practise in Canada, an application to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is required. Following this there is a 6-8 week wait while the NCA assesses your credentials and then notifies you regarding any particular deficiencies you may have in your legal training with regards to the Canadian jurisdiction. The NCA will assign certain courses which you will be required to complete before a certificate of qualification is issued to you. This certificate is then used to apply to a Canadian law society in the province you wish to work.