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Court considers usefulness of decades-old law degree

A Northern Territory court has considered whether a man could be admitted to practise with a 17-year-old legal degree.

user iconNaomi Neilson 15 February 2024 Big Law
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Tanzil Rahman has asked the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory to admit him to practise on a degree he obtained in May 2006 so he could begin work as a local lawyer.

Dr Rahman graduated in the honours class and was considered by Judge John Burns to be a “highly intelligent man” and “possessed a high degree of knowledge of those areas of the law … certainly greater than that of the average law graduate”.

However, Dr Rahman went on to work in the health, management and consultancy spaces following his graduation.


His only legal work includes a 2003 summer internship with Gilbert + Tobin and a brief appointment as an adviser to the chair of the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs.

Dr Rahman has not completed practical legal training.

Under the Legal Profession Admission Guidelines, if either the academic qualifications or practical legal training were obtained more than five years before the filing for admission, the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board may ask for information about work experience.

If it is a more “extensive delay” or major changes have occurred since the degree was obtained, the board can refer it to the court.

Judge Burns said the guidelines “provide guidance to those proposing to apply for admission” into the legal profession but cautioned they “are not intended to be proscriptive”.

“The court should not only be guardian at the gates of the profession, [but] it should also assist apparently worthy candidates to understand what they need to do in order to be eligible for admission where the board is in some doubt how to proceed,” Judge Burns said.

“This will likely lead to greater diversity in the profession.”

Judge Burns acknowledged the board is concerned given the length of time, Dr Rahman’s current knowledge has “not demonstrated to be such as to allow him to completely practice as a legal practitioner”.

To ensure his knowledge is reflective of the current requirements for legal practice, Judge Burns said Dr Rahman should complete a course of reading or coursework determined with the University of Sydney, being the university he graduated from in 2006.

If the University of Sydney is unable to accommodate Dr Rahman, Judge Burns said it would be up to the aspiring lawyer to find an “appropriate institution” to complete this work with instead.