As a recent law graduate with a mile long CV and reasonable grades, I am currently roughing out the market with everybody else.
Prospective employers at firms have told me that my CV is good and that I present well, but that I do not have enough legal experience. This is despite the aforementioned “mile long CV”.
I found work during and at the conclusion of my degree, but it was not easy by any means. I, like most of my peers, worked hard to write applications, build a network and spent endless time volunteering to get any experience I could. And yet it is still not enough. The extraordinary demands on law graduates have seemingly no end.
I came across a job advertisement today for a “graduate legal secretary”. In describing the role, the commercial law firm writes:
“We are looking for an energetic law graduate to support our team of lawyers in the Melbourne corporate and commercial practice. You will bring some experienced gained in clerkships or industry placements.”
Among the long list of duties for the role it states: “Preparation of standard documents such as leases, trust deeds, contracts for sale and associated documentation”.
So just to be clear, this is a highly ranked, reputable, commercial law firm that brings in a significant amount of turnover purporting to hire a graduate with a degree and mile long CV to do secretarial work, and presumably pay them accordingly.
A legal secretary has no need to possess a legal qualification or legal skills – that is why they are regarded as a secretary and not, for example, a paralegal.
There is no doubt that the above firm intends to use the successful candidate’s legal skills and knowledge to bill to a client for the cheapest rate they can get away with to generate more profit for themselves.
This is not the only example but it is clear to graduates that firms want more bang for their buck and will demand a candidate with a CV that makes them overqualified for the role and pay them a pittance for it.
I am aware of how a business works, but I cannot stand seeing my peers being exploited like this. Law graduates have spent years striving and they should be employed in what their education has prepared them for.
It is time to arm an oversight committee with the power to investigate and enforce penalties on those firms who are treating graduates like bums on seats instead of actual people worthy of being kept around.
There is no denying we have a problem here. The exploitation of law graduates must stop.
The[Pre]Lawyer in Black is an anonymous law graduate and blogger.
Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, an adjunct lecturer at The University of Western Australia and is a board director of Minds Count.