Q People talk about 'alternative career paths' but what are they?
A Typically, an alternative career path is seen as a position outside the traditional law firm path. The range of options available to graduates can be daunting. Lawyers end up in a wide variety of fields outside private practice. It is important that you are fully informed about your options, so that you can start planning and making the right decisions now.
A career as an in-house lawyer is a popular alternative to private practice because it enables you to work closely with a client, be involved in whole transactions and contribute towards the overall success of an organisation. It can also be a great stepping-stone to a senior management position.
Most vacancies are filled by lawyers from large firms, with one to five years' commercial law experience, although today an increasing number are coming from small-and-medium-sized firms. While commercial law experience is ideal for in-house, there are a few opportunities for litigators.
Both State and Federal Government departments employ lawyers in a range of areas. This option is similar to an in-house position, because most government departments and statutory corporations operate as business enterprises. They may offer more flexible working conditions, including study leave and part-time hours, and have traditionally offered greater security, although this is less so today.
If you enjoy litigation and like the idea of running your own business, this is the option for you. The bar offers lawyers an exciting alternative to private practice and still allows you to specialise in your chosen field. It also lends itself to part-time work. Life at the bar for junior barristers can be difficult while they develop their practices. It is considered advisable to get at least a couple of years' experience in private practice before making a move to the bar. You then have the solicitor contacts you need in order to develop your practice.
The other options available to young lawyers are limited only by your imagination. Below are just a few suggestions. They all require varying, but not substantial, post-admission experience. Some may also require postgraduate study of some kind.
- Community legal centres
- Training in a law firm
- Recruitment co-ordinator in a law firm
- Human resources manager in a law firm
- Professional service marketing or management
- Ministerial advisor
- Company secretary (often combined with in-house legal)
- Legal recruitment
- Legal publishing
- Megan Drysdale, senior consultant at Mahlab