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Unemployed grads told to think outside the box

Unemployed grads told to think outside the box

The head of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has encouraged clerks who were unsuccessful in landing a graduate position to think beyond the city firms.

LIV president Reynah Tang (pictured) told Lawyers Weekly that the industry body is attempting to tackle the oversupply of unemployed graduates by encouraging students to consider roles in government departments, community legal centres and suburban, regional or rural practices.

“Not everyone will end up at their most desired firm and there are a range of different career paths people can go down,” he said.

Tang revealed that the LIV has received feedback from understaffed rural and regional practitioners who are struggling to attract lawyers to their locations. He added that anecdotal evidence suggests experience in these practices can offer the same depth and spread of work as a city firm.

Community legal centres are also under-resourced, continued Tang. While many of the roles are voluntary, the experience will, at the very least, “keep lawyers’ skills in play” until market conditions improve.

Tang admitted that economic conditions are contributing to firm cutbacks to graduate intake, but he could not say whether the trend is simply a cyclical movement or indicative of structural change within the legal profession.

“The legal industry goes through ups and downs [but whether] something more structural is going on – it’s hard to tell,” he said, adding that he commenced his legal career in the wake of the recession of the early 1990s when the job market was similarly tight.

Lawyers Weekly exclusively reported last month that the Melbourne offices of Allens, Baker & McKenzie, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, Lander & Rogers and Slater & Gordon hired less than half, and in some cases less than a quarter, of their clerks that were vying for a 2014 graduate position.

A national recruiter also revealed to Lawyers Weekly in August that she is receiving dozens of phone calls each week from high-performing law graduates who are struggling to find a job.

“It is the worst time in living history to be a law graduate,” said Elvira Naiman, managing director of Naiman Clarke.

To the clerks that missed out on a graduate position, Tang recommends joining LIV’s Young Lawyers or similar law society groups, which provide networking opportunities and information about job opportunities.

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