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More pay but less work for graduates

More pay but less work for graduates

New and improved standards for graduate lawyers entering the work force may be good news for them, but insiders fear the new Legal Services Award means more pay, but less work.

NEW and improved standards for graduate lawyers entering the work force may be good news for them, but insiders fear the new Legal Services Award means more pay, but less work.

Law students are getting more expensive. The new Legal Services Award 2010, which came into effect this year, drastically changes the requirements for work hours, remuneration and study leave for pre-admission graduates.

Under the new rules, graduates will be subject to a minimum wage, 25 per cent more than the current NSW standard. They will be entitled to overtime for every hour worked past a 38 hour limit, and will be entitled to four days of paid study leave for each subject in their practical legal training courses and attendance at lectures.

For law firms and other employers, it means forking out more money for the same level of lawyers that they could get last year.

The Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA), has this week welcomed the changes, but has raised concerns around what the cost of employing law graduates means for the number of positions being offered.

The gradual increase in the number of law schools and law graduates in Australia has not necessarily been met with a proportionate increase in job vacancies.

ALSA cites a 1998 survey showing that 50 per cent of law graduates choosing to enter the private practice of law, the law graduate recruitment market is already very competitive, especially in the current economic climate.

ALSA is concerned the new standards may discourage graduate recruitment. The cost of maintaining these new standards may have a detrimental impact on small, boutique, regional and rural law firms, it said.

ALSA vice president of education, Fiona Cunningham said rural, regional and remote firms “are in need of incentives, not obstacles, in order to entice graduates into taking up employment in these areas”.

“The lack of access to legal services in rural, regional and remote areas may be further accentuated by the inability to employ graduate lawyers,” she said.

She corrected media claims that ALSA believed the effects of the award would be disastrous”, as reported in Lawyers Weekly magazine.

ALSA president, Jonathan Augustus, said of the reports: “It is important not to overreact and simply paint an increase in remuneration for law graduates

as ‘not good for anyone’. Like many stakeholders, ALSA will keep an eye on the long-term effects of such changes, however the objective of reducing potential exploitation of law graduates is one ALSA commends”.


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