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Families in Law

Kerrigan family from the Castle

Coming from a family background with only a lawyer or two scattered across the many generations, the question of “would my law school experience be different and substantially easier if I came from a family filled with lawyers?” has often intrigued me.

There are always a few sets of law student siblings at uni, and even more law school friends who have a parent (or two) in the profession.

A legal education can begin from an early age in a legal family, even if you don’t realise it. An introduction to the legal lingo, systematic reasoning and analytical thinking are traits a legal relative is able to impart. Comfort in the legal world and law school in general is likely to be more natural and familiar to a person of legal decent.

A legal familial background seems to have worked well for many. For example, former High Court Justice Owen Dixon was the son of a barrister, and former Chief Justice Gerard Brennan’s father was a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Continuing with the High Court theme, current Chief Justice Robert French is the eldest of 5 children, four of which have law degrees from the University of Western Australia!

For those of us without lawyer families, our imaginations run wild and tell us that coming from a law family means every dinner conversation would be filled with current cases, law reform ideas and helpful hints for law school success.

Our older law school sibling would be forever giving us notes, making us stick to a study timetable and our parents would get us legal work experience whenever we felt ready. It would be amazing to have a sibling to laugh with when a crazy relative brings up a ‘we should sue them’ argument, to save you hours of LexisNexis trawling or to just have someone at home who understands how stressful and time consuming law school can be.

Of course, for those with relatives in the law it is not always the work-experience-networking-buffet-free-pass-into-the-law-firm-of-your-dreams-lifestyle that some of us non-legal family types may have fantasised about, and coming from a non-law background isn’t without its perks. If you’re the first person in your clan to study law, there is probably less family expectation about the area of law you choose to practice in. We are also not expected to work at a certain firm and have more freedom to decide where our studies will take us.

Even if you’re the first person in your family to pursue a career in the law, you may not be the last!

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