To Lawyer, or not to Lawyer: Finding Alternative Roles in the Legal Industry
I spent the last few weeks of law school frantically trying to hand in mountains of PLT assignments on time, freaking out about a defended hearing assessment, working part time as a paralegal, volunteering at an amazing community legal centre, and, most frightening of all, trying to find a job.
Unlike the law students who were lucky to have secured graduate legal employment, I was unfortunately watching the golden grad employment boat sail into the sunset.
So I scoured the legal jobs websites religiously, refreshing the page every hour or so, just in case something had been posted in the last 3600 seconds. Fortunately, this was not all in vain: I got a few calls, which happily made up for the silences from other employers.
I put all my feelers out and asked friends, colleagues, and parents if they knew anything that was going, but at the back of my mind was the question: do I really want to be a lawyer? I don’t want to waste all these years of pain, but what else can I do?
Then it all happened quickly. Within a few weeks of finishing law school and in the midst of completing my PLT hours, I was faced with three offers. The first offer was as a grad lawyer in a small suburban firm far away from where I lived, which would inevitably lead to a life of conveyancing and estate stuff. The second option was in the area of law I was very keen to get into and at a good specialist firm, but the role was as a casual paralegal. The third was a job overseas in Southeast Asia, working in marketing communications for a law firm.
I considered each option carefully, talking (well, panicked rambling) to my law firm supervisor, solicitors at the CLC, my parents, and friends, and in the end I decided to take the leap into marketing communications (aka Marcomms). I didn’t know what I’d be faced with and had to Wikipedia it before the interview, but it seemed interesting, it was in a new country and why the hell not?!
Now that I’ve been here in this job for more than a year, I have learned a lot about the legal industry that I wasn’t exposed to when I was buried in law textbooks, property and constitutional law lectures, and ever-looming assessments.
The legal industry is not just built on lawyers and billable work; it also relies heavily on administrative support, including business development, legal recruitment, marketing/communications, IT, etc. When I started this role, I thought: “what do I know?”, but now I think: “a person without legal training would have a very hard time doing this role.”
I don’t have a communications background and was thrown in the deep end, but my legal background has been a huge advantage: you understand the issues better and can quickly identify what is and isn’t important, and you can pick up a lot of things much faster than someone who hasn’t had any experience in the law.
I initially thought that I must have been a bit of an anomaly, but in my first year I was invited to a cocktail networking evening for Marcomms people in professional services firms and discovered that I was most definitely not the only one. I took it as a really good sign that people who are directors/managers/heads of Business Development (BD) or Marcomms at law firms were often law graduates. Some had worked as lawyers for a few years, and others went straight into legal business services after law school.
So if you’re interested in the legal industry but not sure that being a lawyer is for you, there are lots of other roles for law graduates in the legal industry.
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