Congratulations!! After many years of hard work you have successfully completed your law degree.
The next matter for you to consider is: do you expect to have a long and productive career as a lawyer employed in a law firm?
Perhaps so, but, if not, maybe it would be of benefit for you to consider using your many skills in the pursuit of a career outside that of the traditional legal pathway of employment in a law firm.
More Than Law
The consideration of an alternative career path may be the result of the struggle to obtain any employment in a traditional law firm; or it could be that having started such a career you find that it no longer provides you with the satisfaction that you had thought that it would do so.
As many of you are aware, the current employment environment for lawyers is difficult and particularly so for young lawyers to get a start in their career. Of 12,000 law graduates produced each year, only 60,000 working lawyers exist in the entire country.
However, that does not mean that the learning that you have acquired is useless and that your options are forever closed because you have not obtained, or wish to continue in, employment in a law firm.
Skills To Pay The Bills
Among the many benefits that a law degree has provided to you is the ability to think in an analytical manner. This skill is central to the way problems are solved and issues are evaluated. These skills can be the building blocks on which you can develop a career outside employment in a traditional law firm.
The skills that you have acquired also ensure that, should you wish to do so, you have the intellectual capacity for continual learning in other disciplines. A law degree is a very good springboard that can launch your chosen career by helping you to develop skills in mediation, negotiation, problem solving and analytical skills.
The choices that you may wish to explore will need to be undertaken in a way that will fulfil what you are passionate about and believe is worth your while in investing your skills. It will be necessary for you to be patient and resilient in the face of potential disappointments when a job application that you have made does not even elicit a response. However, it is not the end of the world if that happens – it is important for you to keep your spirits up by continuing your quest to work in a way, and in areas, that you wish to do so. Your persistence will pay off.
How To Use A Law Degree In Any Field
As a law graduate, it is important to remember that you are a chameleon of careers.
Like a chameleon, holding a law degree gives you the training and skills to adapt to any field or professional environment. Websites such as Beyond Law are now exploring this theme by providing graduates and legal professionals with a platform to explore different career pathways.
Common alternatives to traditional firms include working as:
- an in-house lawyer for a large corporation (including banking and finance); and
- a lawyer employed in a large government department or agency, or a non-government organisation.
Several Commonwealth Government Departments have large legal areas providing specialist legal services to their respective departments. For example, the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Australian Government Solicitor and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel also provide excellent career prospects for those who wish to work within the Government sphere of legal work, as does the Attorney-General’s Department.
However, in addition to jobs that are specifically legal in nature, within government departments and agencies there are many legally qualified people employed in areas of policy development and service delivery across a myriad of interesting roles and responsibilities that are of great importance to our national life.
These opportunities enable the skills of the lawyer to be utilised but within an environment that is not what you may have envisaged on your graduation.
In an era where there have been reductions in employment in the Australian Public Service, there are many departments who have their own Graduate Program. These are conducted on an individual departmental basis and, in addition, several Government Agencies conduct their own program.
It is well worth looking at the relevant websites for those opportunities which will be for the year commencing in early 2018. These applications will need to be completed in early 2017, and if you are interested it is worthwhile regularly checking websites in January 2017.
While I realise that is some time away, if this is a path that you wish to pursue, it could be worth your time to properly investigate. Various government agencies have continued to invest in young graduates even in times of reduction in employment in other areas of the Australian Public Service.
Non-Ongoing Or Contract Employment
In addition, there are various temporary (3-6 month contract) positions within many Public Service agencies and government departments that are advertised from time to time. Placing your details on government Temporary Employment Registers is an effective way to secure temporary work and to gain experience.
Once you establish a proven track record as a temporarily-engaged staff member it is often easier to secure extended, long-term contracts. You will also have a foot-in-the-door and be in a better position to apply for permanent positions through internal recruitment rounds.
It is worth looking for these opportunities that still do arise, particularly if you are interested in expanding your horizon to employment outside that of legal practice. Remember to check websites of the various State and Territory governments for job opportunities that arise in their respective agencies.
An example of how diverse the range of choice available to you is that mediation is a rapidly expanding area of work that has resulted in the development of the National Mediation Standards and accreditation for mediators.
Mediation is a profession in its own right, but accreditation can be sought, by way of example, through the Law Institute of Victoria. The National Mediation Standards are expected to commence on 1 July 2015.
There are also registered family dispute resolution practitioners accreditation through the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department that may be of interest to you.
It could be that you are interested in pursuing work opportunities overseas.
Those opportunities will be informed by the geographic location that you have an interest in, as well as the areas of work that you wish to undertake. The main thing is to appropriately research all of the options that may be available to you and that will be of benefit to you in developing your skills for the rest of your career.
These days having the backing of a professional degree doesn’t tie you down in a tedious job. It opens doors that allow you to use your skills in unique and interesting ways.
You may decide to use your degree for good by pursuing a rewarding position in the non-profit sector. Or you may decide to build a career in the public sector, either in legal or policy fields.
Increasingly, lawyers and recent graduates are adopting a radical approach to their careers and leaving traditional law firms to start online businesses or private firms. Others are gaining relevant experience before uprooting to chase exciting opportunities overseas or to work their way around the world by offering freelance legal services.
The possibilities available to you are only limited by the breadth of your imagination.
What ways do you envisage using your law degree? Will you pursue a traditional private firm or forge an alternative pathway of your choosing?
- For information on Australian Government Graduate Programs visit: australia.gov.au
- For information on current Graduate Programs visit: APS Jobs.
- To search current Australian Public Service Jobs listings visit: APS Jobs.
- To search alternative legal pathways visit: Beyond Law.
- To search vacancies in the non-profit sector visit: Pro Bono Australia.
- To search jobs in the community and non-profit sector visit: Ethical Jobs.