What future can today’s law graduates expect?
This has become one of the most asked questions in our profession, fuelled by growing concerns over a potential oversupply of graduates.
However, the news is not all bad.
While there are undoubtedly unique challenges facing law graduates in today’s market, these difficult times have also been the catalyst for bringing about a much-needed mind-shift to the graduate discourse: the realisation that it is well and truly time to rethink the traditional definition of a ‘legal career’.
Thinking Outside the Square
As the Graduate Placement & Careers Advisor at Leo Cussen Centre for Law, I see first-hand the anxiety that comes with being a graduate on the cusp of a job market fraught with obstacles. But as law graduates grapple with the harsh realities of a competitive job market, they are also becoming more savvy about identifying all their options.
Put simply, tough times have forced graduates to think outside the square when it comes to carving out a career in the law.
The hallmark of this shift in mind-set is an elevated interest in careers that go beyond typical law firm roles. Law schools and PLT providers are increasingly catering to this interest, as they seek to support students in their broader job search. An example of this is the recent Beyond Commercial Careers Fair organised by the Monash University Law Students’ Society, and last year’s Public Interest & Government Careers Fair organised by Melbourne Law School.
Events like this provide a much-needed forum for graduates to explore less conventional career paths at organisations such as the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation, Environment Victoria, The Conservation Foundation, Amnesty International, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Community Legal Centres and, Ombudsman offices, as well as various state and federal government departments.
At Leo Cussen, we have implemented career programs to ensure our PLT trainees are aware of all the avenues available to them as law graduates, while equipping them with the skills to improve their job prospects.
The program was born out of a growing recognition that today’s law graduates need to complement their legal skills with equally robust career skills. This is supported by recent research showing that employers are regularly passing over graduates who don’t display basic job-ready skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving – all crucial for the demands of the real-world workplace.
When I look over the various career paths taken by Leo Cussen alumni over the Centre’s 40-odd- year history, I am inspired by the unique career trajectories which challenge the very notion of what it means to be a ‘legal professional’.
Alongside an impressive list of private practice lawyers also sits an equally impressive list of graduates who have taken lesser-known career paths in areas such as government, insurance, human resources, policy and case management. Our graduates have gone on to become HR Managers, Claims Officers, Compliance Managers, Project Coordinators, Dispute Analysts, Industrial Relations Advisors, and Members of Parliament.
The message is clear. For law graduates, a challenging job market presents an opportunity to think outside the square and explore less conventional career paths. For employers who have previously fought for the attention of law graduates, this is a unique chance to tap into a more open-minded graduate pool.
Alex Giannopoulos (pictured top right) is a Graduate Placement & Careers Advisor at Leo Cussen Centre for Law
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Copy and images supplied by Leo Cussen Centre for Law.