The Trials of a Mature Age Law Graduate
A few years ago I went through a life-changing event. Once I adjusted to my new way of life I was ready for a new experience. I made the decision to go to uni and study law. Four years later I graduated and was admitted as a lawyer and experienced something I had never really felt before: pride in my accomplishments.
As a mature age student I interacted with my younger classmates, formed some great friendships and just got on with it. The age differences did not occur to me, as we were all at uni for a common purpose. I always had a positive attitude towards finding a job because I honestly and sincerely believe that there is a place for everyone.
But after completing my studies I began to realise that a positive attitude is not enough. I needed to apply for jobs, network, and put myself out there. So I did, and I am.
I worked hard at uni because I knew that as a mature age student with a disability I would have to have to really demonstrate to an employer that I would be a capable and hard working lawyer. But I didn’t expect to have this much difficulty finding my place in the legal profession. I applied for numerous government graduate programs and entry-level roles in law firms without success. I quickly discovered that there is a negative perception of ‘mature age’ people who are students and who later want to enter or re-enter the workforce. This applies not only to paid employment, but to volunteer work as well.
A senior barrister commented that I was wasting my time. Who was going to employ an old person with a disability? Wouldn’t I have been better off learning to type so I can be someone’s assistant?
There is a perception that as a mature ager I am not ambitious, I’m slow, I don’t (or can’t) learn quickly, I am not driven, I am not flexible, and that I can’t be taught. I disagree with those stereotypes. Our attitude towards mature agers needs an overhaul. Employers need to look past candidates’ ages and have a look at the value we ‘later lawyers’ can bring to the workplace.
It may sound trite or cheesy, but I have always been fascinated by the law. I believe that law should provide equitable and fair outcomes, but that justice is an elusive ideal. This is what inspires me everyday. I really believe that I can use my law degree to benefit those who are the most in need.
But first I need to find a job. Or more accurately, an employer needs to take a chance and offer me one.
You can read more about Susan’s experiences at her blog Trials of a mature age graduate lawyer.
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