Careers for law graduates in accounting and advisory

Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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What does an accountant do?

Broadly speaking, accountants assist their clients with the preparation and maintenance of financial records. While you may be most familiar with their role in managing tax declarations, accountants also perform other critical tasks such as preparing financial statements, performing audits, drafting budgets, advising on investment decisions, and analysing the costs of various business processes.

The role of accountants has shifted over the past few decades, with software making it possible for them to automate bookkeeping and focus more on data analysis, the development of appropriate tax strategies, and other more valuable tasks.

There are various specialities within accountancy. For example, a management accountant focuses primarily on business forecasts that can be used by senior executives to make more informed decisions. By contrast, a forensic accountant performs reviews and audits to identify possible discrepancies in an organisation’s financial records.

Where do accountants work?

Accountants work in practically every sector and industry, from mining and transport to education and the government. They are often employed in-house at a range of public and private organisations, as service providers at small to medium accounting agencies, and as consultants in large firms. In Australia, this last category is dominated by the ‘Big Four’ – that is, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC.

How can I take advantage of my law degree?

If you’re after evidence that law graduates possess skills considered highly desirable in the accounting industry, look no further than the fact that many accounting firms are actively recruiting them. In Australia, the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms have pledged to grow their legal teams, with PwC announcing that it intends to be one of the world’s top 20 legal providers by 2020. This is encouraging news if you’d like to use your new found skills in the accounting and advisory industry as a legal practitioner.

If you’d like to move into the accounting industry but not practice as a lawyer, the outlook remains positive. The disciplined and creative approach that leads to success in the law will also stand you in good stead should you move into accountancy. You may also find that your understanding of taxation law and other aspects of finance law proves useful.

However, bear in mind that, while a law degree might lend credibility to your application, it won’t be enough to secure you a job if you wish to work as a registered accountant. To do this, you will generally require an accounting degree (or a Bachelor of Business with a major in accounting) and an active membership with one of Australia’s three main industry accreditation providers: the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), Certified Practising Accountants Australia (CPA), and Chartered AccountantsAustralia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).

Average salary

The average entry-level salary of Australian graduate accountants is $56,000 per annum. They generally work around 46 hours a week.