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  • Writer's pictureWenee Yap

So, what kind of law student are you?

Woman sitting on library floor with a book

So, you’ve found yourself at the start of your legal “experience”. Are you here to put the United Nations or Justice Kirby to shame? Did you hit the HSC lottery and feel obliged? Did you get lucky, or are you just hoping to sleep on a big, satisfying pile of money one day?

Lawyers can save the world.

You came into this world with the kind of high ideals that would put the United Nations, Oxfam and Bono to shame. Since the day you could walk, talk and read of Aristotle and Kant, you have dreamed of forging a better world, closing rich/poor divides and sharing the deepest secret that nobody knows: under our skin, beneath our values and prejudices, we are not so different at all. Passionate in your convictions, driven in your efforts to mediate conflicts, organise aid programs or conceive of high level social policy, you might just realise your brilliant ideals. That is, if you survive the next four/five years of law school…

You scored the marks…and felt obliged.

Extension English. Four unit Maths. Chemistry. Physics. Biology. Modern History. Ancient History. Art. Drama. These are where your high school passions lay. To nobody’s surprise expect perhaps your own, you scored high in these fields and found yourself landed with the kind of university entrance mark most parents could only dream of. You have exceeded the requisite cut-off for the course of your choice – some lowly, underpaid pursuit in the Arts, Sciences, IT, Nursing, Design, or any faculty that is not Medicine or Law – by 10 points.

Lured by glimmering career prospects, wealth, respect and influence, you have followed the earnest advice of your parents, careers advisors or anyone else who cared to direct the course of your future: you’re here, in Law School. Just trying it out. For a semester or a year. See how it goes.


You are the person everyone loves to hate. Scraping by on apparently minimal effort and maximum debauchery, your natural brilliance saw you tick all the boxes of successful living in your brief life so far: high school, friends, flirtations, prizes, talent. Perhaps you have another career under your belt. Not content with conquering captains of industry, saving lives on a steel operating table past midnight, or parachuting into war zones for your Walkley Award winning news exclusive, you are now in Law School just for the heck of it. For the thrill and the challenge. You have no particular plans. You will let fate and luck take charge of your life as it always has, and steer a ripple-free course to an uninterrupted harbour view of the top. You don’t need study guides. You don’t need anyone. You don’t need this site. Until you hit Week 12, and you still don’t understand the essential elements of a contract, or how an entire field of law based on a snail-induced gastroenteritis could be so complex and so beyond the grasp of your inherent intelligence.

So we’ll see you then, the night before finals. Don’t worry, we’ll still be here.

Money. That’s what I want.

You have just spent the past fifteen to sixteen years of your life in a top notch, well dressed and very expensive private school education; your parents are either rich beyond reckoning or aspire to be. Your grew up in a house the size of a small castle and your uncle is the Director of Marketing at a major pharmaceutical; your grandfather founded Clayton Utz; or your parents work three jobs, never took holidays and wish for you to live in a house with its own private beach and boat, paid for by your Managing Partner salary at an elite London law firm where you run the Dubai office and water-ski on weekends.

The very best…or bust.

You have a brain bulging with IQ points and a razor-sharp wit to match. You wandered through the best public schools or cruised by on scholarships, winning mock trials, inter-school debates and SRC or Prefect positions along the way. In your wake you left hundreds of sleepless nights, empty coffee cups, spent paper pads and scores of lesser mortals. Your desire – to change the world. Nothing less. In politics, law, or media. Preferably all three. Your motto – ad altiora. Towards higher things. Recognise this? Read on. If not, then perhaps -


You found yourself in law school. It was an accident. You are scouring the lecture hall for clearly marked exits. You are terrified. You wonder which future legal career would suit you best: philandering corporate law shark with prozac/cocaine addiction and illicit office affair in tow, or dashing human rights lawyer shot dead by rebels/spies/thieves while working tirelessly (and pro bono) to free a democratically-elected freedom fighter wrongfully accused and condemned to death. Both options cause you to hyperventilate. Where are those exits? Or a brown paper bag? Or a Ctrl+Z?

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 3 February 2010.

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