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What if Commercial Law Isn't for Me?


Pressure to secure the coveted ‘clerkship’ position often results in fourth year being underscored by collective anxiety and cut-throat competition. Naturally, students hope to acquire a graduate position after spending their summer interning. But what about the rest of us who feel that neither the clerkship process, nor corporate law itself, are suited to us?

1. Clerk Other Areas of Law

Think about the subjects that you enjoy studying and consider going into these areas in private practice, such as family law or personal injury. Don’t feel that you need to compete for a clerkship to be successful.

2. Community Legal Work and Legal Aid

Community legal centres can offer varied and interesting cases with unique challenges and opportunities arising from the diversity of clients you’ll be exposed to. It’s also a good opportunity to think quickly on your feet and cultivate some of the ‘soft skills’ that make an ideal candidate, such as personability, a professional demeanour, and the ability to engage with your client’s interests in the context of their specific industry.

Furthermore, legal aid solicitors are constantly in the hot seat and respond to a variety of cases, sometimes at short notice. You’ll be helping some of the people who need it most and you’ll gain some great skills. Through legal aid you can also give different roles a try, like community legal education.

3. Academia

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If you’re into writing and legal research, then no more essential are those skills than in legal publishing (think LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters) or academia. Never stop learning: always stay abreast of legal developments, and contribute to its discourse with your own normative arguments. If you enjoy constantly critiquing the law or philosophising about it, consider academia. Or if you think you’d like marketing this information to the masses while learning a lot in the process, think publishing.

4. Teaching

We’ve all groaned at some point about our lecturers. Here’s the opportunity for you to take what you hate about lectures and make it better. Teaching law (whether it be in legal studies in high school, or in criminal law at university) means you get to influence the next generation of lawyers.

5. Judge or Magistrate

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Admit it. You’ve fantasized about sitting on the throne of justice, gavel in hand, serving up justice Judge Judy style. Make those dreams a reality and consider becoming a judge, magistrate or member of a tribunal. If you seek more exposure to the judicial profession, consider applying for tipstaff positions (an example for NSW readers) or, if you have a squeaky clean academic transcript, even an associateship with a Justice of the High Court.

6. Going to the Bar

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Going to the bar isn’t just a Friday night game plan, it’s a career move too. If you’ve got a passion for advocacy you might consider becoming a barrister. Most people arrive to the bar late in life, but there’s actually nothing stopping you from coming to the bar straight out of law school. Mooting in university gives you a good taste of presenting submissions to a bench under immense pressure. Indeed, oral advocacy in an incredibly challenging yet rewarding alternative to firm life.

7. Think Outside the Box

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Law is flexible and can be used in many careers. Visualise your ideal professional environment and be creative in using your law degree to get there. Perhaps you’ll start your own legal venture, become an entrepreneur or maybe work for an online firm. Remember the legal landscape is always changing. As such, there are always new niches for you to tap into.

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