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Law schools must do more to prepare students for in-house realities

With in-house roles becoming a more considered career path for law students and graduates, the need for universities to promote this pathway is apparent. Here, one law student and in-house paralegal weighs in on emerging practitioners’ readiness to work in corporate legal roles.

user iconGrace Robbie 06 March 2024 Corporate Counsel
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Hayden McLoughlin is a paralegal at NIOA Group and a final-year law and business student at Queensland University of Technology. Speaking on a recent episode of The Protégé Podcast, he reflected on having worked in-house for two years and discussed how other law students could do the same if universities effectively informed their students about this pathway.

Despite a significant increase in in-house roles (104 per cent) between 2011 and 2022, as reported by the 2022 Annual Profile of Solicitors NSW, universities continue to primarily emphasise opportunities within large commercial firms and the private sectors.

McLoughlin recounted an instance: “One of my tutors at university, she was working in-house as well, and she made the comment to me, it’s like, hey, did you see the latest career handbook at our university, which looks as all the different type of career options? And it has like a one-page summary of what in-house [is]. And the rest of the 30-page thing was just about private practice, pretty much.


“I just thought it was so odd, considering how interesting in-house is and the variety of work you do. But it was so undersold, and not many people knew what in-house was or what they did, especially at that junior level.”

Law students who are uncertain about their desired legal career path can benefit from working in-house. McLoughlin stated: “As a junior upcoming law student, you don’t really know what type of areas of law you’d be interested in.

“Working straight in-house, you kind of get a really better idea of, OK, I really like this area of law. I hate this area of law. Or even, is doing law right for me? Is there something else I can do?”

“You touch things from employment law to contracts to competition law.”

While universities offer programs to assist students and provide guidance for them to find these opportunities, many feel that these resources are insufficient.

McLoughlin stated: “There are some programs set in place to set you up with mentors and study like that, but I found they can sometimes be a bit superficial. You’re paired with someone but generic. They may not be your particular interest. I never really found them particularly useful.

“I guess because law schools are very theory-based in a sense. So it is kind of hard to balance that with learning, then setting them up for practical experience.”

Due to many law students feeling unsupported, it is important that law schools enhance their resources to help their students gain an understanding of the current opportunities available to them in all sectors.

McLoughlin offered his insight by commenting: “I would prefer to see more programs in place for mentoring and that sort of stuff. I think there’s a niche missing market, particularly in law students who are just starting off. I don’t think they’re getting enough exposure to the outside field.”

McLoughlin offered guidance to law students attending universities that don’t provide information about in-house work but are interested in pursuing this career path.

“I’ve reached out to people on LinkedIn before who I’ve had interest in their careers and kind of asked, would you be keen to catch up for coffee?” he said.

“I think for a lot of law students, it’s just a matter of fact of going out and talking with people. When you’re very early on in your studies, you don’t really know anything. So really just getting out and talking to as many people as possible and kind of getting that understanding.”

In the same episode, McLoughlin discussed the undervalued opportunities available in this field and encouraged law students to “branch out” and not overlook work in-house.

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