I don't want to be a conventional lawyer
“I’m Leanne, and I’m in my second last semester.” I announced to my first Property and Securities tutorial just a few weeks ago… “When I graduate, I'm not sure I want to be a lawyer.”
Met with stares of disbelief and awe, my variation of the standard format introduction was far from conventional. This was perhaps the first time I had been truly honest about my current intentions - previously cloaked by a sense of shame, and application of the sunk-cost theory.
Recalling an introductory law school lecture in which a realistic lecturer broke us up into pairs, and stated dryly that one of us would not finish law school or practice law, the desire to beat the odds and be a successful graduate has long been on my mind. Through challenges of both physical and mental illness, I’ve persevered through this degree. Today, I find myself so close to the proverbial light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel. But I’ve never been further from wanting to practice.
Statistically speaking, I’m not an anomaly… I’m part of a significant portion of students and graduates who have realised callings beyond the law. By voluntarily opting out of the hyper-competitive clerkship/honours race, my perspective has shifted. No longer do I measure my worth against the accolades of my peers. We speak of comparison as the thief of joy, and its time we stopped comparing.
Instead, look inwards. Observe yourself.
Take note of your body language when speaking of career goals. Do you fold your arms as you assert your objective to be a ‘top tier commercial lawyer specialising in large-scale international mergers and acquisitions’? Does the thought of accounting for your time in six-minute intervals send a shiver down your spine? Listen to your voice. Does it soften slightly when you announce to others your status as a law student? These could be indicators of contrary intentions…
Should you choose to complete your law degree, but not practice law, don’t write off your experiences entirely. Learning is never wasted. You’ll keep the skills developed throughout your degree. I’m not merely talking about your ability to apply obscure legal principles to the circumstances of fictitious characters, but the broader application of structure, logical reasoning and lateral thinking. A law degree looks impressive on a resume, even if you’re not a lawyer. It shows hard work, dedication and intelligence – traits that aren’t negated by a decision not to walk a certain path.
What if you’re not quite sure? Unfortunately, society views uncertainty and indecisiveness as weaknesses. Remember that you don’t have to close the door completely. Keep it ajar in case of a calling later in life.
Some of the most “successful” non-practicing law graduates I know still dip their toes in the industry from time to time…
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