Careers Guide

'Your legal future'
Other options
Summer Clerkships
Law Graduate Employment Scheme
Other Graduate Programs
Job-hunting skills
Recruitment firms
Useful contacts
Useful web links
Recommended Reading

Your legal future


Law students are discovering that the traditional route of landing a summer clerkship and practicing as a solicitor, is only one of numerous ways to begin an exciting and rewarding career in the law. A law degree, combined with another undergraduate degree is arguably as valuable a degree as you could attain. Employers hold in high regard the reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills that law graduates can offer. A law degree will open doors.

Private practice is a popular traditional career for law graduates. The work of a solicitor is quite varied. Solicitors provide legal advice, conduct negotiations, draft legal documents and represent clients in court proceedings. Solicitors deal with the public so excellent communication skills are essential. Being able to explain the law to clients and advocate on their behalf are valuable skills that an aspiring solicitor should be prepared to master.

Working as a solicitor for local, state or federal government is another option. Government lawyers provide advice to government departments, draft legislation, prosecute on behalf of the Department of Public Prosecutions, and assist in the administration of courts. The regular work hours of government work are conducive to the work-life balance and there is usually no requirement for excessive billable hours for government legal work.

Barristers are lawyers who argue cases before courts and tribunals. They are typically people who love to win an argument and who are energised by litigation. Gradates who are quick thinkers and are capable of attaining a firm understanding of the rules of evidence may make excellent barrister. Public speaking skills are integral for this line of work. Aspiring barristers will generally have to prove themselves as a solicitors first.

Corporate law is an attractive option for detail-focused graduates with an aptitude for technical legal work. There are many jobs available for corporate lawyers in major companies and banks. Lawyers who succeed in the corporate world are typically ambitious and extroverted and can work well under pressure. Billable hours make corporate law a high pressure career option.

Working in a community legal centre is a pathway for lawyers interested in using their knowledge and skills to help people directly. Community lawyers assist members of the public who are in trouble with the police, their landlords, or their employers. Postgraduate qualifications in social work can make lawyers attractive to welfare rights employers.

Similarly, Legal Aid work can also be a very rewarding field of work for graduates with a passion for social justice. Legal aid lawyers guide disadvantaged people through the justice system. Patience and highly developed communication skills are essential for this line of work.

Policy work is suited to law graduates who are interested in contributing to the improvement of the legal system. Policy work involves research, writing and assisting in directing the implementation of important activities which government departments carry out. Policy professionals can find work in law reform, in government, as ministerial advisers, in universities and in industry or commercial or community lobby groups.

Alternative dispute resolution is an interesting option for creative law graduates with outstanding communication skills, who prefer to work in a non-traditional environment. Lawyers with minds that can easily see two sides of an argument and who enjoy resolving disputes and seeing paths for others, may be natural mediators or conciliators.

Graduates who love research and study may be well suited to a career in academia. Academics enjoy flexible working hours and, compared to the demands of private practice or corporate law, a relatively relaxed working environment. The demands of lecturing and publishing articles can be quite stressful however.

Strong written and analytical skills and the ability to work well to deadlines are essential for a career in legal publishing. Legal editors often specialise in a particular areas of law. Also, employers recognise that the skills that the research, investigative and writing skills that a student acquires studying law can make them excellent journalists.

Law and justice courses run by high schools, colleges and TAFEs are becoming increasingly popular. Teaching is a particularly rewarding career for law graduates with high level communication skills and a genuine interest in imparting their knowledge onto young people and being a positive influence.

A career as a law librarian may suit well organised graduates who thrive on legal research and assisting others find information.

Finally, graduates with a curious and creative mind may enjoy working as a professional legal researcher. Legal researchers provide specialist legal research, writing, and analysis support to practicing lawyers and government legal departments. They search cases, statutes, and other sources of law; draft legal memoranda, briefs, and submissions. They research and analyse legal policy options and research facts relevant to litigation, such as information on products, litigants, companies, and expert witnesses. Being a professional legal researcher requires much more than a knowledge of modern research tools and techniques. Most legal research is about thinking creatively, drawing relationships, and being persistent. For an example of a company that specialises in providing legal research and writing support, see Research One.

This non-exhaustive list of career options is a useful reference point for students who are wondering where to begin the job hunt. Students who have neared completion of their studies have probably narrowed down their interests and discovered their strengths. This self-analysis will help guide career decisions. It's comforting to know that legal skills are highly transferable. The directions that a career in the law can take graduates are really only limited by their imagination, persistence and the willingness to work harmoniously with others.

Other options

AusAID Youth Ambassadors
ESL Teaching
Social Entrepreneurship
Overseas aid
Graduate study
Small Business

Summer Clerkships

Summer clerkships are open to students currently undertaking their penultimate year of study. They usually run from early December to mid-February. Most firms prefer candidates to apply through cvMail.

Firm Areas of practice
Allens Arthur Robinson Corporate and Commercial; Energy, Resources & Infrastructure; IP; Communication and Technology; Banking and Finance; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Taxation
Baker & McKenzie Anti-trust and Trade; Banking and Finance; Corporate; Dispute Resolution; Employment; Insurance; Intellectual property; International / Commercial; IT/Communications; Project Finance; Real Estate, Construction, Environment and Tourism; Tax
Blakes Dawson Corporate Advisory; Financial Services; Industrial Relations & Employment; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Projects & Property; Tax; Technology
Corrs Chambers Westgarth Corporate; Financial Services; Organisational Advisory and International; Property and Development; Communications; Technology; Competition and Intellectual Property; Litigation
Clayton Utz Corporate, Banking and Financial Services; Litigation/Dispute Resolution; Property & Construction
Deacons Construction and Engineering; Energy; Financial Services; Government; Health, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; Infrastructure; Insurance; Manufacturing; Media and entertainment; Property; Resources; Retail, Distribution and franchising; Tourism and hospitality
Dibbs, Barker, Gosling Administrative Law; Aviation; Construction; Corporate Advisory ; Corporate Governance; Employment Benefits; Employment Law; Equipment Finance; Equity Finance; European Desk; Finance Services; Financial Services Reform; Franchising; Government ;Insolvency; Insurance ;Intellectual Property; Life Sciences; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Mergers and Acquisitions; Privacy; Property; Superannuation;
Taxation Services; Technology; Trade Marks;
Trade Practices;
Freehills Banking and Finance; Corporate; Employee Relations; Litigation; Projects; Taxation
Gilbert + Tobin Corporate Advisory; Intellectual Property; Competition Law and Utilities Regulation; Property, infrastructure and Projects; Communications; Outsourcing and Technology; Media and Content; Litigation; Tax; Pro bono
Mallesons Stephen Jaques M&A; resources; corporate advisory; capital markets; banking and finance; IT/IP; construction; property; communications
Minter Ellison Finance; Dispute Resolution; Competition law; Construction, Engineering and Infrastructure; Corporate; Human Resources and Industrial Relations; Government; Insurance; Intellectual Property; Investment and Financial Service; Environment and Planning; Real Estate; Resources and Energy; Tax; Technology and Communications; Tourism and Leisure
DLA Phillips Fox Banking, Finance, Funds Management and Superannuation; Business and Corporate; Commercial Dispute Resolution; Employment & Industrial Relations; Insurance Claims and Risk Management; Intellectual Property & Information Technology; Property, Construction, Planing & Environment
Pricewaterhouse Coopers Legal Commercial and Regulatory Litigation; Construction & transport; Corporate & commercial; Employment; Environment; Information; Communications and Technology; Insurance; Real Estate; Tax Litigation; Workers Compensation and Claims Management
Sparke Helmore Business & Corporate Services; Commercial Dispute Resolution; Compulsory Third Party; Construction, Engineering & Projects; Dust Diseases ; Energy & Resources; Federal Litigation; Government Business; Major Claims; Planning Environment & Local Government; Professional Indemnity / General Liability; Property, Development & Infrastructure; State Compensation; Technology & Intellectual Property Law; Workplace Relations, Safety & Environment

Law Graduate Employment Scheme

A number of law firms secure summer clerks and graduates through the Graduate Employment Scheme. To apply for positions at participating firms, students must submit a 'Law Employment Application form', available at cvMail.

Other Graduate Programs

Click on the Commonwealth Department / Company name to go to their web site:

ACT Government
Australian Customs Service
Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Attorney-General's Department
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Government Solicitors
Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
Commonwealth Department of Defence
Commonwealth Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources
Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services
Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs
Defence Signals Directorate

Job hunting skills

In today's competitive job market law graduates are in a prime position. Employers value that analytical, research and writing skills that law graduates can bring to the workplace.

The key to landing a great job is your ability to sell yourself to potential employers. In essence employers are looking for graduates who are adaptable, hard-working and who have well-developed people skills and a desire for life-long learning. The following web sites provide information about the skills that employers are looking for in graduates:

UTS Bell Program
Australian Law Students'Association
Employer satisfaction with graduate skills
O*Net Online Occupational Information Network
The Conference Board of Canada

Recruitment firms

Legalease is an excellent website to that put you in touch with legal recruitment firms.

The following list helps you to narrow down recruitment firms in your local area:

City Recruitment Firms

Bond Recruitment
Focus Legal Recruitment
Hamilton, James and Bruce
JD Legal
Law Solutions
Legal Eagles
Management Recruiters Australia

Canberra Careers Unlimited
Professional Careers Australia
Melbourne Allied Personnel
Carmichael Fisher
Cherry Solutions
Hamilton, James and Bruce
Just Legal
Law Solutions
Legal Eagles
Legal People
Link Recruitment
Mahlab Recruitment
Perth Shelton Forrester Manns
Sydney Carmichael Fisher
Dyanne Gerard Personnel
Elias Recruitment
Enigma HR Pty Ltd
Hamilton, James and Bruce
Law Personnel Pty Ltd
Law Solutions
Law at Work
Learned Friends
Legal Eagles
Legal Personnel Pty Ltd
Link Recruitment
Mahlab Recruitment
Naiman Clarke
Warnecke Consulting

The following recruitment firms specialise in overseas legal positions:

Hays Personnel Services
Legal Personnel
Michael Page
TMP/Hudson Global Resources
Drake International
Warnecke Consulting

Useful contacts

Legal Aid

Legal Aid Office of QLD - (07) 3238 3444
Legal Aid Commission of NSW - (02) 9219 5000
Legal Aid Commission (ACT) - (02) 6243 3411
Victoria Legal Aid - (03) 9269 0234
Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania - (03) 6230 0900
Legal Services Commission of South Australia - (08) 8463 3555
Legal Aid Western Australia - (08) 9261 6200
Northern Territory Legal Aid - (08) 8999 3000

Community legal centres

axton Legal Centre (QLD) - (07) 3254 1811
New South Wales CLC Secretariat - (02) 9318 2355
Australian Capital Territory Association of CLCs - (02) 6247 2177
Victorian Federation of CLCs - (03) 9602 4949
Tasmanian Association of CLCs - (03) 6223 2500
Norwood Community Legal Centre (South Australia) - (03) 9221 9322
Darwin CLC Inc - (08) 8982 1111

Useful web links

Legal career advice from Lexis Nexis
Career One
Australian Jobsearch
Global Careers
Go Abroad
Graduate Opportunities
Job Guide
Labour Mobility
Legal Profile
Legal Career info from Nexis Nexis
My Career
My Future
O*Net Online Occupational Information Network
Law Council of Australia
Council of Australian Law Deans
New Zealand Law Society

Family Law Express

Open Colleges - Australia leader in open learning.


Recommended Reading

Richard N Bolles, What Color is your Parachute?- A practical manual for job-hunters
& career-changers
, Ten Speed Press, 2002.

Barbara Barron-Tieger and Paul D Tieger, Do What You Are: Discovering the Perfect Career For You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, 2001.

Sources used

Careers Introduction, Australian Law Student's Society
Careers Guide 2003, Australian National University Law Student's Society
A Guide To Careers in Law, The Law Society of South Australia
Mediation: Lawyers, inequity and the meaning of 'alternative'