Navigating the legal employment sector

On Thursday 22 September the La Trobe Law School ran a workshop led by careers expert Geoffrey Guilfoyle exploring the range of career options available to law graduates. Here are Geoffrey’s top five tips on navigating through the maze that is the legal employment sector.

1. Alternative career to practising in the top tier

Having a law degree doesn’t mean you need to practise law in a top tier firm and have that be the end all of your career options. Practising lawyers work for major corporations, as in house counsel, in community organisations, on boards for not for profits or in specialised law firms just to name a few options. So don’t be deterred if you want to use your law degree in a way that doesn’t fit the stereotypical, go to law school, work as a graduate in a firm and stay there for the next fourty years of your life. These options are becoming far and few between so you’re more likely to find suitable employment if you are willing to be both flexible and creative with your path.

2. Research research research

Understand what opportunities are out there for you and who is offering them. Internships, volunteering and seasonal clerkships are a good way to get a taste of the area of law you may want to practise in and most firms or corporations offer general graduate programs with rotations in different practise groups. Identify which sector of the law you want to work for, who the relevant players are and start networking by linking to relevant professional organisations or associations within the law. Some great resources include the Law Institute of Victoria, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Neighbourhood Justice Centre, Australian Government website, Job Seeker (for community sector), and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.

3. Network

It is unfortunately a part of the job that can be tricky, but the more you do it, the better you become at it. Planning and practice are the key protocols for networking. Making sure you get involved with events in the legal sector that you’re interested in is half the battle. Attend, ask questions, share information and follow up with anyone you met and had a meaningful conversation with.

4. Your skill set

As law graduates, your skill set is a unique and transferable one. You’ve worked in teams (group work), managed your time (crammed for exams), articulated your point in a well-reasoned piece of advice (written memos), thought about things logically and laterally and utilised your judgement to make decisions. By harnessing these skills and applying them to your respective career paths, you’re on the way to becoming a valuable employee, no matter which sector of the law you choose to work in.

5. Be strategic

Remember that a few tailored, well researched and well written applications will generally produce more successful results. This is because you can truly demonstrate who you are and why you want to work for a particular organisation and align your attributes with the organisations needs which increase your prospects of obtaining a coveted interview!

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