With orientation weeks kicking off in law schools around the country, we are delighted to share this interview with Sarah Lynch, the founder and editor of Bucket Orange magazine, on career paths and choices facing legal students.
You can follow Bucket Orange on twitter @bucketorange and through its website http://bucketorange.com.au/ . We here at the Law School are very grateful to Sarah, as a publisher who connects and engages with legal start ups and young professionals, for taking the time to share her tips for those starting out in law.
Sarah, tell us a little about your background – why did you decide to step into the world of legal start-ups?
I have a Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Laws from the ANU and am admitted to practice as a Barrister & Solicitor in the ACT.
I’ve never really been interested in doing something just because everyone else is doing it. This probably explains to some extent my decision to do something risky like launching a world first legal publication dedicated to breaking the law down into digestible chunks for a non-legal audience.
Looking back, I can see now that this propensity to break the rules and reject the status quo manifested itself in a few interesting ways.
In law school, I refused to get caught up in the panic of applying for summer clerkships or graduate roles, instead escaping overseas after graduation. After returning, I worked as a lawyer in the Federal government and spent a few years working my way up to acting Director level, before pursuing my other passions for writing and the music industry by joining a new music marketing startup in Sydney.
Working in music marketing, and some of the more challenging experiences I had as a young person entering the workforce, were influential in helping me realise that the law was inaccessible to younger people and that it was possible to reach out and make a difference in people’s lives through digital publishing. To my surprise, nothing like the law hacks now regularly featured in BucketOrange Magazine existed, which is when it dawned on me that it was up to me to start it.
When did you begin BucketOrange, and how has it grown since inception?
BucketOrange Magazine is the only indie legal publication of its kind, created exclusively for young Australians.
I launched the online magazine in 2015 and it has been a wild ride! From starting this boutique publication two years ago that nobody knew anything about (and, let’s face it, no one wanted to know anything about because the law has traditionally been considered boring and irrelevant by young Australians) to being interviewed last month about my work on Channel 9’s, Today Extra show, is a little bit mind blowing.
I never anticipated that the magazine’s unique social impact publishing mission to empower young Australians to lead the best versions of their lives by demystifying the law and helping them to understand their legal rights through education and entertainment would take root in the collective consciousness so quickly.
We have built a brilliant team of writers, sub-editors and legal researchers that work tirelessly to publish about important legal and political issues that impact the lives of young Australians right now. We have worked with industry leaders, collaborated with law foundations and some of Australia’s leading universities as well as also now being the official media partner of the National Golden Gavel awards.
It’s overwhelming to think about how quickly young Australians, the legal industry and the education sector have embraced the idea and supported it with back-to-back nominations in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards for ‘Thought Leader of the Year’, and the LexisNexis Legal Innovation Index. I was also selected as a winner of the LexisNexis Legal Lingo campaign 2016 for creating three innovative new legal terms “PopLaw”, “Lawgic” and “Law Hacks”. The new legal definitions have been published in the Online Australian Legal Dictionary 2nd Edition. I was also recognised in the category of Emerging Leader in the Australian Institute of Management Leadership Awards.
How might Bucket Orange help law students?
BucketOrange Magazine is not just for law students, although a percentage of our readers are law students. Our primary publishing mission focuses on assisting young Australian non-lawyers to proactively manage their legal health as they would their physical health.
Our ‘Backstage Pass for Lawyers’ section is just for lawyers and law students and regularly publishes on legal industry trends, news and events. Everything from emerging legal leaders, new legal startups, and developments in innovation and disruption, to insider commentary, career advice and the lighter side of practising law.
If law students are interested in getting involved, having their ideas heard by a wide audience, influencing the opinions of young Australians, and building a solid online writing portfolio that looks very good on CVs and LinkedIn profiles, we regularly consider new article submissions. Pitch us a story or send an article on a topic of interest and we might decide publish it.
How do you think advancements in technology will impact the legal profession in the coming years?
Hopefully tech will continue to assist lawyers to perform mundane and routine tasks more effectively and to enhance the administration of justice. The nature of legal work is likely to change in the coming years with current processes becoming more efficient. Tech will likely take on a more prominent role in streamlining legal research and automated discovery. Much of the work of paralegals and, perhaps, the role of graduate lawyers in performing hours of legal research will likely be replaced by artificial intelligence.
But technology, AI and robots do have their limitations which is why I believe that they will never replace the human component of legal work which goes to the heart of our legal system, the rule of law and access to justice. The human capacity for negotiation, emotional intelligence and the ability to make the correct judgement call will never be the province of technology as we know it to exist today.
What advice would you give to law students who are about to start their career in law?
Adjust your expectations. Employment market predictions indicate that most people will have up to 17 jobs across 5 completely different industries throughout their career. This means undertaking a lifetime of education, re-qualifying and looking for opportunities to upskill. What it also means is that the traditional concept of a ‘career’ is a lot different to what it once was. You are no longer locked into one job for the next 30 years of your life.
So, start to think of your career as less of a linear track and more of a zig-zagging path.
You don’t have to put enormous pressure on yourself to land a legal role immediately after graduating. In fact, gaining life experience through travel or acquiring transferable skills from other occupations like policy, project work, or operational roles can actually make you a more attractive and competitive applicant when the time comes, and if you decide, to apply later on for a legal role.
There is also no such thing as one dream job. You may have many. Often your dream job won’t make you happy, it will make you miserable. If this happens, try not to become disillusioned. The truth is that for most of us there is no such thing as finding your ‘one true purpose’ in life. You may have many purposes that can bring you happiness and fulfilment in a number of different roles.
Spend time working out where your skills, natural abilities and interests lie. If you have strong analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills you will make an excellent lawyer. But your skills could also work very well in other fields like entrepreneurship, journalism, politics, diplomacy or policy development. If you know yourself, your career options naturally branch out from one conceivable profession to multiple future possibilities.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received since finishing your law degree?
Change jobs every two to three years. Take your skills and experience to new occupations or employers so that others can benefit from your past work experience and you can continue to build on your existing skillset.
Do you have a quote you live or work by?
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face … you must do the thing you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt