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Students prefer time with clients over partners

STUDENTS WANT to spend more time with clients than they do with partners or senior members in their future practice areas, the Lawyers Weekly student survey has revealed.When asked how many…

STUDENTS WANT to spend more time with clients than they do with partners or senior members in their future practice areas, the Lawyers Weekly student survey has revealed.

When asked how many direct contact hours they would want in their first year with experienced members in their division, 43.2 per cent elected three to five hours each week. The next most popular response was one to three hours, at 23 per cent.

But when it came to direct contact with clients, 29.8 per cent of students thought five to seven hours was preferable. This was followed closely by three to five hours at 28.4 per cent, and more than seven hours at 28.1 per cent.

All up, around 86 per cent want over 3 hours of client contact per week and 58 per cent want over 5 hours per week.

According to Rosemary Galic, senior consultant with Mahlab Recruitment, these expectations are more likely to be met at smaller firms.

“Generally speaking, young lawyers will have a high degree of client contact on smaller matters that they have personal carriage of. In such matters partner or senior supervision is limited and usually indirect,” she said.

“On larger matters, partners and senior associates tend to lead the transactions and therefore have most of the client contact.

“Smaller firms that operate on leaner teams also tend to expose juniors to more hands-on client contact,” she said.

Contact with senior practitioners is also viewed as important to some degree according to the survey result, with only 1.9 per cent hoping for less than one hour a week.

Indeed around 75 per cent of students want at least three hours of direct contact per week with a partner or senior member in their practice area, with 32 per cent want over 5 hours per week.

Galic said firms are all too familiar with the primary motivators of the Generation Y talent pool, including high quality work and good training and supervision.

“Most firms have a system in place where every graduate is allocated a mentor — usually someone at the senior associate level — and also a supervising partner. These seniors are personally responsible for supervising a graduate’s work, feeding them more work, and involving them on all aspects of a variety of transactions.

“A couple of Sydney firms have taken on a trend set in place by some Magic Circle UK firms — partners sharing offices with graduates. Not a bad way for a young lawyer to learn,” Galic said.

Students were also asked to estimate their average hours per day in their first year on the job. A total of 38.4 per cent expected up to nine hours a day, followed by 30 per cent estimating up to ten hours. A hopeful 18.6 per cent thought up to eight hours was likely, while a much more pessimistic 11.1 per cent thought ten hours and over was realistic.

Only 1.9 per cent of students thought they could get away with less than seven hours a day.

Additional reporting by Shaun Drummond and Kate Gibbs

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