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Mature law grads seek a fair go

Mature law grads seek a fair go

They're older, wiser and carry more life experience than the usual breed of law graduates and from today, they're seeking a fairer go in the graduate recruitment process. They are the "later…

They're older, wiser and carry more life experience than the usual breed of law graduates and from today, they're seeking a fairer go in the graduate recruitment process.

They are the "later lawyers" of the profession: the lawyers who, having lived a life and had a career somewhere (usually) far away from the law, have joined the legal sector a little later on in life. And frankly, they believe they're not getting the credit they deserve when applying for jobs at law firms.

Today (12 October) at a small lunch in Sydney, a group of self-confessed "grey haired" lawyers will meet for the launch of "Wiser Lawyers", an organisation aimed at promoting mature aged law graduates.

For Wiser Lawyers administrator Felicia Nevins, it's a chance for "later lawyers" to group together to prove to law firms the benefits that older law graduates can offer.

"With a good decade or more in a first career under their belt, older graduates have a proven track record of success and are better able to relate to clients because they've experienced life," she said.

But despite such advantages, Nevins believes that there's anecdotal evidence to suggest a level of bias against older law graduates during the graduate process - with many law firms preferring to hire young lawyers over their older counterparts.

"I've been told stories about people submitting over a hundred applications without even getting an interview, whereas younger people are hired quickly even though they've no prior work experience," she said.

With more mature aged students studying law, and the internationalisation of legal education through the introduction of the JD at many Australian law schools, there are plenty of law graduates in their thirties and forties ready to make a solid mark on the legal progression.

Often, "later lawyers" carry a decade or more of experience in a different career and/or simply in living their lives - be it through marriage, mortgages, kids and travel. Such experience can aid in developing negotiation and conciliation techniques - skills that younger lawyers may simply not be able to match, no matter how hard they try.

Nevins herself carries such experience. Having managed three theatre companies and worked in senior management roles at DFAT, DIMIA and at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, Nevins' graduation from law later this year should present a prized opportunity for a law firm to pick up a highly qualified recruit.

Over lunch today at Maddocks, Barbara Holborow OAM will share her ideas on how the "late starters" of law can break into law firms. Having qualified as a solicitor at the age of 39 and been appointed to the Bench at the age of 50, where she served 12 years as a Magistrate in the Children's Court, Holborow said in the lead up to the launch today that her experiences as a divorced, single mum gave her the maturity necessary to deal with kids and families in crisis.

"Had I been younger and less worldly, I don't think I would have coped as well or been able to help as many kids as I did," she said. "Being that little bit older and wiser when I entered the legal profession also meant that I knew how to network to get things done."

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