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Practicing after law school? Help!

Man covering face with exclamation marks

One word: confounding. As I approached Internships and Clerkships, there was a sudden discord between how I thought the law profession would operate to how it actually did operate. Law School has steered me into the academic world of precision and accuracy, which is all useful but not always the way the job works.

Here’s why:

1. Academic writing

At Law School, we lose marks for not complying with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation. This can be frustrating because you generally don’t have to footnote in practice. I once lost a chunk of marks on an assignment because I didn't identify all of the correct authorities even though my answer was right. So for those students that don't feel it necessary to regurgitate every single authority imaginable, rest assured your ‘right’ answer will remain an A!

2. Legal terminology

Thereinafter, hereinbefore, henceforth… Dear Legalese, I will leave you in my academic writing (sorry not sorry). Can you imagine being a client and hearing this unnecessary language? I can. The room is silent. The client looks at the solicitor and thinks to one self, ‘What. is. happening. right. now?’ In practice, clear communication is paramount and discussing legal issues with potential clients needs to be clear, simple and easy to understand.

3. What is the law?

Knowing the law is important but it’s not ALL about the law! It’s also about how well you can apply it to different scenarios that best meets your client’s needs. We need to interpret the law in a way that the client understands how it will help their matter. They don’t need to know the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that we learned in Law School if it’s not applicable. Remember IRAC? The A still applies!

4. Finances

At Law School, law fees are bound to pop up in student banter. However, in practice, your billable hours need to be worthwhile. This is where your strategic plan to complete work efficiently and effectively shines or more bluntly, don’t waste time. Law firms need to, at least, meet their daily budget and there’s no room for someone who is just along for a ride.

5. Working as a team

I’m sure most of us have experienced the student who seems to be flying out of the country the day before a group assignment is due. Most of us probably also know a student who thinks they are a golden star (and maybe they are) but are condescending to others. Disregarding your shining star abilities, you need to work as a team by interacting with your colleagues and support staff. It’s crucial. There is no ‘I’ in teamwork. Insisting that you complete all of the work on your own will increase stress and possibly depression in the latter years so please, be collaborative and stay mentally healthy.

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