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Students urged to look beyond the careers fair

Students urged to look beyond the careers fair

David.Nguyen

Universities are facing criticism that they channel graduates into private practice – and this starts at the first careers fair, according to one young lawyer.

Last week, Lawyers Weekly reported that while law students were increasingly looking beyond traditional firms, some commentators believe universities are failing to keep up.

David Nguyen (pictured), a legal counsel with Lexvoco, agreed universities predominantly communicate about job opportunities within private practice and leave students to “proactively find out more” about jobs in government or in-house.

In his view, private practice is disproportionately promoted by universities because law firms have the resources to provide sponsorship and attend university career fairs and functions.

“In terms of exposure, [top-tier] firms tend to be top of mind. If universities were to engage more with large companies, students would be better educated about alternative options.”

Mr Nguyen encouraged law graduates to consider in-house legal work as a career option.

“The benefit of working in-house is that you get to understand the business as a whole, and its different functions and the way they interrelate,” he said.

“Private practice tends to see you focus on law alone, whereas in an in-house role you get to draw upon your legal competency, and also learn about the key drivers behind the business.”

Mr Nguyen agreed that initial experience in private practice can be valuable but said it was a mistake to consider this path as the ‘be all and end all’. 

The relative advantages of a career in New Law are particularly understated by universities.

“Working for a New Law firm […] means you benefit from a diverse work life, and get exposed to many different companies and sectors and their internal workings,” said Mr Nguyen.

However, there are some drawbacks to starting your professional life in this emerging New Law sector.

“Access to legal support might not be as readily available as it is in private practice that has dedicated teams of librarians and researchers,” said Mr Nguyen.

These resourcing issues can be offset in various ways, he said – Lexvoco, for instance, partners with a traditional law firm and recruits lawyers to work on a flexible basis in-house.

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