In about four days I'll be in a cinema with my best friend, and I'm hoping we'll leave telling everyone that they are Kenough and waving "Hi Barbie!" 👋 to almost everyone else we see. But before then, I want to take you back to the previous weekend. I've been looking after a dog that has bad separation anxiety. This situation meant that my best friend would have to sidle her way around my schedule and that we invariably met up for more dog walks than we bargained for.
On some level, I don't blame you for asking where on earth I'm going with this article. Since I'm sure hearing about someone else's weekend isn't what you bargained for. But since she's a long-time graduate of Law at UNSW and I'm on the cusp of graduating with my law/psych degree. I considered sharing some major realisations we've both had towards the end of our law degrees that no one warned us about.
1. Your legal knowledge will change your perspective of the real world
You did it. You're on your way to the well-deserved title of graduate and survivor of giving a f*ck for five consecutive years. You know you've survived more than one semester talking about distributive or restorative justice. My friend and I reminisced about what we learnt at law school. We couldn't help but discuss how our legal knowledge has better equipped us to identify problems with legal frameworks and policy. For example, we both agreed that it wasn't uncommon for legal policy to uphold a disability remedial framework that inadvertently excluded or disadvantaged another person with a disability. In essence, once you know the laws that contribute to the legislation both government and society uphold today it gives you a unique perspective you didn't have before. But that problematically leads to the second realisation.
2. The motivations you once had will change
If the first realisation is like realising that you're in the matrix, then the second realisation is wondering what on earth it all means. You have the hindsight now to look back on the idealism previously held by your younger and wide-eyed clueless self. But there was a beauty to your determination, idealism and desire to effect legal change. Although it is our collective desire to create good legal outcomes which makes our profession noble, the realisation that you need more than nobility to survive in this economy hits differently.
Of course, you want to create a meaningful difference, but you also realise that you don't want to work for a corporate law firm. To give away your time which is your greatest and most non-refundable asset. Perhaps deciding what to do after graduation isn't only about how or what you want to spend time working on. Rather it could be about the profound and somewhat perverse realisation that although you know so much more than before, the third realisation is right around the corner.
3. You know enough to know you don't know everything
Before I started my law degree, I genuinely believed that finishing my law degree would roll out the red carpet for being a lawyer since I'd overcome the hardest parts of of the journey. But in my experience, that's been far from the case. You typically graduate and then you have 1-2 years of Post Graduate Legal Training (PLT). Afterwards, you apply for the bar and if you pass you're admitted as a lawyer. But aside from the procedural aspects of becoming a lawyer, you have an appreciation for how the system works. Which means, what are you really passionate about in law? Where do you want to go? What legal problems do you love solving and why? I think we all had subjects at Law school that we thought we'd loathe. Mine was contract law, but I had a phenomenal lecturer and tutor. The way they taught the subject genuinely held my interest, and thanks to my law professors I still enjoy contract law to this day.
However, it's not something that I want to vest my whole career into and maybe that's okay. I don't have to figure it all out now but maybe I can plan a career trajectory that's brimming with ambition via a process of elimination. I still have no idea what it's like to work in a Community Legal Centre (CLC) but ultimately it's up to us as law students and graduates to define what meaningful or purposeful work is. Either way, you've come so far and it's still an incredible success. I have a feeling it won't be your last success either.
Did you have these same realisations just before or after you graduated? If you would like to provide feedback on our articles or contribute to Survive Law please contact us at email@example.com