In states such as Western Australia, where doing your articles is an alternative to practical legal training (PLT) to gain admission, students must recognise that failing to get articles is not the end of the world.
In fact, as Marsha Dale, lecturer at the College of Law in WA told Lawyer2B, in some respects doing PLT is the better option.
So too could be exploring occupations outside of the law.
“In WA there is definitely a mindset that once you get your law degree you have to be a lawyer,” Dale said.
“A law degree is really like the arts degree of the ’70s. It’s a very general degree that can open all these other doors for you.”
Under the current system in WA, students have the option of doing either PLT or articles, though the PLT must, until imminent legislation is finalised, be completed in NSW.
But those who have their hearts set on landing an article clerkship at one of the big firms can find rejection very difficult to cope with, if and when it occurs.
“In WA, on a certain day in September, all the firms are allowed to ring and offer people articles, and you’ve got two hours to accept,” Dale said.
“You get this one day when everybody is standing by the phone panicking. The next day at uni you have all these elated students, and then these totally shattered students.
It’s a very soul destroying process, but it’s the best system that the Legal Practice Board has been able to come up with.”
Dale said that PLT, which puts everyone on a level playing field, is arguably a better way to get trained.
“We want to get the message out to students: ‘don’t slash your wrists’,” she said. “Articles relies on having a really good supervisor. Some firms have the time, the energy and the resources to really well supervise you, but other firms don’t.”
And perhaps for some, admission isn’t necessary at all, she said.
“There are other professions that require those sorts of skills: researching, the ability to think as a lawyer would, finding ways to resolve disputes. Those skills are very transferable, and students don’t really see that because society tells you: ‘you get a law degree, you’re a lawyer’.”