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Why networking is important for junior lawyers

After being the first in her family to study law, this award-winning associate said she experienced a number of disadvantages coming out of law school, which she combated by gaining work experience as early and as often as she could.

user iconLauren Croft 02 October 2023 Big Law
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Samantha Moon is an associate at Acorn Lawyers and the winner of the Rising Star Private Practice category at the recent Australian Law Awards.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Protégé Podcast, she reflected on how she got experience in law firms while studying and the benefits of doing so to build up her network.

Ms Moon grew up in Bega, NSW, and is the first in her family to study and be admitted to practise law – and gained work experience throughout university and invested in building her network, particularly post-pandemic.


“It’s just all about trying to get as much experience as you can as early as you can. Particularly, the people [who] are employing you or interviewing you are probably from a different generation to a lot of us coming through in COVID times. And I think they really respect that, putting yourself out there and just giving it your all and sort of fronting up and letting people know what you want and what you’re chasing,” she said.

“I’m really happy with where I’ve gotten to in my career so far, and I think that does sort of give you that little bit of a confidence boost to keep you moving forward. And I’ve met so many great people and met so many lawyers doing fantastic things that it just keeps sort of motivating you to keep doing more.”

However, Ms Moon emphasised that being the first to go to law school from her family has still come with disadvantages, which she said students in a similar position would “absolutely” still experience today.

“If anything, it’s probably been exacerbated for uni students coming through during the COVID times, I think. Not having classmates that you can sort of bounce off. Obviously, they’re going to be a professional network down the track, and it’s so much more difficult to build friends and build that connection with people when you’re speaking to them through a screen. And I think one thing I’ve actually noticed at this point in my career is that I think lawyers at the same stage have really missed out on the sort of professional network developments that you get from being able to trot on down to the courthouse, do your quick appearances in the morning, and then get back to the office,” she explained.

“And that was how 20 years ago, that’s how the lawyers all made friends in the profession, made professional connections, and particularly filled that relationship with barristers as well, and an understanding of court filing procedures where we just don’t have that anymore. And I can’t recall the last time that I had to run down to the court for an in-person appearance. Now you just dial in by phone. So, I think that’s a real challenge for lawyers coming through in the earlier stages, and I’m not sure it is improving. In-person appearances are becoming more common again, but it’s certainly an extra barrier for people coming through.”

Therefore, students in a similar kind of position should start small, Ms Moon added.

“You don’t need to be in some big international law firm in your first year to be able to become a lawyer. Just doing that little bit [of] volunteering, perhaps down at Legal Aid or anything like that, and just getting that little bit of experience. Keep picking up little pieces here and there, and before you know it, you’re just going to have this really good knowledge base, a great professional network for you to bounce off down the track,” she said.

“You can go back there and maybe apply for a paid position and start getting that more permanent law clerk paralegal role. Hopefully, towards the end of uni. And then it’s a real sort of a natural progression into becoming a first-year, second-year lawyer.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Samantha Moon, click below: