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  • Writer's pictureWenee Yap

What Happened to the Law Graduates of the GFC?

Lost man on a boat

November 2008. Recession was looming. Depression was threatening. The world, as always, was ending. Against this theatre, I was buried in final exams. Considering, rather bleakly, my options. No graduate job. Life direction? Not a clue.

Sound familiar?

At 23, with no meaningful professional experience, I graduated right into the GFC. So did a few of my friends. If there’s anything to be learned from our cohort, it’s that there’s usually more than one way to get where you want to be, even if it feels like a tough time to be graduating.

Let me tell you where we all beached ashore by 2013.

A few did the rounds of clerkships, made it through to the reduced graduate intakes at law and professional services firms, banks, management consultancies, etc. Others were offered payouts not to take their graduate jobs. One of my friends took the money and bailed for a year in Europe. Another took the rejection and toiled on as a paralegal in top-tier, and two years later was one of the few paralegals offered a graduate position. Another friend, who had missed clerkships, called everyone on Earth (or thereabouts), talking his way into a big bank to tail the in-house legal counsel. He later moved over to a top-tier firm.

Others went back to uni and studied for their Masters while they waited for things to improve.

A flat lining economy didn’t worry another friend who fled the country to catch Obama’s inauguration speech live, and stayed for a barely-paid stint as a DC activist. He loved it.

In November 2008, a relative informed me that I was wasting my law degree. I might as well have done pottery or... arts. (Incidentally, I did study arts. Shh…) In August 2009, I launched Survive Law and taught my first classes as a law academic the following year. In 2011, I finished writing my first novel. I’m still writing and teaching and the Class of 2008 has survived the GFC, even if we weren’t sure that we would at the time.

So what did I learn graduating right into the GFC? Tenacity. Passion. Optimism. Work, work, work. You can still get to where you want to be, even if there are GFC-sized obstacles in your way.

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