Are law students ready for the real world?

Rebecca Murray and Simon Playford from the QLS Future Leaders Committee.

Expectation versus reality when finishing a degree can often be two different things.

“Did I study enough? Do I have enough hands-on experience? Will I get a job straight away?” are often just a few questions that go through law graduates’ minds.

We sat down with Rebecca Murray and Simon Playford from the QLS Future Leaders Committee to discuss how they felt about entering the workforce after graduating university.

When Simon and Rebecca enrolled to do their law degrees, they had no idea what the next few years held for them. While their experiences differed during their studies, both agreed they received a high quality education.

“I felt supported by the university staff throughout my studies – even at all levels, from lecturers to faculty staff to student administrative staff,” Simon said. “Support was always available to those who asked for it.”

“I had some wonderful lecturers who were really engaging when teaching,” Rebecca said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t always translate to the tutors. Nevertheless, I always felt supported and knew that I could ask for help if I needed it.”

Both say they were fortunate enough to make lifelong friends while studying, which helped them through the long nights.

“There were countless group study nights amongst our friends, which positively impacted our performance, particularly when preparing for exams,” Simon said.

“I really enjoyed making friends in my tutorial classes so I could discuss assignment ideas with them. I’ve always found bouncing ideas off others helps clarify my thinking,” Rebecca said.

As for crossing over into the real world and practising as a lawyer, Rebecca feels that, although she learnt the fundamentals of law at university, she was still missing pieces of the puzzle.

“I didn’t really learn how to apply those fundamentals to a real-world scenario,” she said. “The best subject I took at uni was my internship with the (Crime and Corruption) Commission. It showed me how to work in a team, operate in a meeting, take instructions and listen to feedback.”

However, she admits she would have preferred to have more experience dealing with clients.

“As lawyers, we deal with complex matters and need to be able to explain these in simple, understandable terms to our clients. The capacity to explain something simply is a skill and not necessarily the focus of learning at uni,” she said.

Simon said he does believe his experiences and studies at USQ sufficiently prepared his career ahead.

“I feel that law graduates exit study with sufficient theoretical knowledge of the law, but lack the practical application of that knowledge,” he said. “I acknowledge the work experience training required by the practical legal training, but that differs slightly in a traditional employment setting.

“Given the high turnover of lawyers at the three to four-year PAE (post admission experience) mark, I am becoming increasingly cognisant of law graduates’ potential lack of emotional preparedness.”

As for advice for graduates entering the legal profession, Rebecca says ‘be fearless’.

“The worst anyone can say is no, and that’s not a big deal either,” she said.

 Simon says don’t rush it.

“You have time,” he said. “You have a long and rewarding career ahead of you. Find your balance with work and life, maintain your integrity and challenge tradition.”

To find out the facts about job readiness of graduates and entry level solicitors, QLS has engaged Bond University to conduct a research project to explore whether there are discrepancies between expectations and the current legal education system’s standards.

This important survey is anonymous and should take you about 10 minutes to complete. Your opinion is crucial and we need your input to build an evidence base to promote change for the profession.

Visit qls.com.au/jobreadiness to find out more and participate in the research survey.

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One Response

  1. … and would love to see the flipside of this article for those ‘late career change’ or ‘mature-aged’ students taking the dive into the legal profession. The experience is profoundly different for those juggling existing careers, family, and countless other commitments. But equally, varying life experiences cast an interesting shadow/tint on the level of optimism (or pessimism) we may hold for a future in the legal profession…

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