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Getting an offer

Team Prosple

Congratulations, you've got your graduate job offer! Before you sign your contract, take a moment to check these details.

Contract of employment

Before entering into a contract of employment and accepting your first legal position you should seek clarification on the following: 

  1. Start date.
  2. Duties and/or job description.
  3. The number of hours you will be required to work. Keep in mind you may be told you have to work 9.00 am–5.00 pm, plus any further hours as required to meet your clients’ expectations and demands of the job. In private practice, it is possible you will spend at least ten hours a day in the office, in order to meet your billable budget requirements and the inherent requirements of the role.
  4. Rate and method of pay (weekly/monthly).
  5. Whether the salary offer is a package (base and superannuation combined) or a base salary plus superannuation.
  6. When and if you will be entitled to a salary increase (particularly if you are paid junior rates).
  7. Any leave entitlements, including maternity/paternity and long service leave.
  8. Whether you will be employed on a permanent, part-time, temporary or casual basis.
  9. When you can expect to receive a written contract of employment.
  10. Confirmation of all employment conditions in writing (including your next salary review date).
  11. Which enterprise agreement or award you will be working under, if any. (There is no applicable award or agreement for a lawyer.)
  12. The notice requirements of both parties.

Before signing your first contract read it carefully, making sure you don’t sign anything you don’t understand. There’s no need to feel pressured into signing a contract on the spot. Tell your potential employer that you want to take the contract home and will return the contract as soon as practicable. If you don’t agree with a certain clause in a contract you can rule a line through the provision that you don’t agree with and place your initials in the margin.


Lawyers’ salaries vary substantially between large and small firms and between country and city firms. Numerous businesses, including Mahlab Recruitment and Ablethorpe Recruitment, conduct and publish annual career and salary surveys specifically for the legal profession. These list the legal professional salaries throughout Australia and also on an international basis. In contrast, the annual Hays Salary Guide and similar publications provide salary information across the Australian market more broadly. A simple online search will provide you with a plethora of recent salary guides. 

More generous salaries are likely to be associated with larger firms or certain practice areas. For example, solicitors who work in mergers and acquisitions may be required to work long hours to liaise with international clients. As a result, they can generally demand higher salaries as compensation. According to research conducted by GradAustralia, the average starting salary for law graduates is above average at $72,000 per year. Some 37 per cent of graduates earn more than $75,000 per year to start with, while less than one per cent receive a salary below $45,000 per year. Graduate lawyers work the longest hours of any profession, averaging about 49 hours a week.


The Legal Services Award 2020 is a modern award that commenced operation in 2010. The terms of the award have been updated progressively since that date, with new annualised salary clauses recently inserted.

This award applies only to law graduates, law clerks and administrative personnel. As of the last indexing date – July 1st, 2019 – the award for law graduates is $995.50 per week or $26.20 an hour. Graduates are also covered by the National Employment Standards outlined in the Fair Work Act. These standards outline an employee’s rights when it comes to things such as public holiday pay, community service leave, notice of termination and redundancy pay, and minimum annual leave entitlements. 


As a general rule you are entitled to a minimum of 9.5 per cent superannuation paid into a fund of your choice. However, if you are employed as an independent contractor or on a contract for services you will not automatically be entitled to superannuation. 

If you have previous superannuation policies but are unsure of the name or policy number of your previous fund, contact the Australian Taxation Office Superannuation Line on 131 020. 

If you have had previous casual and part-time positions it is likely that you have several superannuation funds. 

To consolidate your accounts, obtain and complete a rollover form from your current superannuation fund of choice. Rolling over your superannuation will: 

  • Minimise the risk of you losing your superannuation
  • Minimise administration fees you are likely to be charged
  • Help you keep track of your superannuation as it is all in one place
  • Minimise the statements you will receive.