Being a qualified lawyer, several years ago I was told the
obligatory legal joke when attending a social function.
Question: What's the first
question that a law graduate asks you?
Answer: Would you like fries with
The undertone was obvious, too many graduates for the legal
For many young people, law remains an attractive career with a
wide range of practice areas that offer specialisation. As a lawyer
who was first admitted in June, 1991 it is no surprise that the
competiveness to enter courses and then the challenge to enter the
workforce, has intensified over the years and will continue to do
As more and more quality graduates come onto the market, firms
benefit from an array of graduates from whom they can select new
lawyers to join their practices.
It seems from the outside that the system works perfectly and to
all intents and purposes, it mostly does; however, my belief is
that there has been a narrowing of opportunities in the Newcastle
and Hunter Valley region for local law graduates due to a
contraction in opportunities such as summer clerkships by larger
What I would like to suggest is that there is a much greater
opportunity for firms, particularly in the Newcastle area, to do
much more in being active contributors to the career development of
young lawyers both before they graduate and indeed after.
As a proud resident of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley who has
practised law here since being admitted, I am passionate about the
opportunities Newcastle and the Hunter Valley provides for law
graduates, in particular those who have obtained a law degree from
the University of Newcastle.
And as a Partner in a locally based firm, I can also see the
opportunities for firms in the Hunter to benefit in the long-term
by providing greater opportunities for local law students and
The University of Newcastle has an outstanding law school that
year in year out attracts high quality students and delivers
outstanding graduates especially those who graduate from the
Practical Legal Training stream.
The question that I pose is: what can local firms do to better
support our local law students? To provide them with more
undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities that retain the best
and brightest here in Newcastle. Rather than losing them to other
cities and other occupations due to the challenges of entering the
The simple fact is that that students who are well mentored and
supported as they undertake their studies provide benefits to us
all, because they are better rounded with additional skills and
experience that can't be obtained simply by attending
The greatest single impediment to students obtaining post
graduation employment is the perception that they lack the
necessary legal skills to provide quality legal advice to legal
consumers. This opinion is predicated on the belief that law
graduates lack the necessary skills to provide such advice. The
reality is that without appropriate pre and post graduate
employment and mentoring a law graduate will never obtain the
necessary skills to provide such advice. This is very much a
chicken and egg scenario. I think the message for Newcastle and
Hunter Valley law firms and the University of Newcastle is that we
need to pick up our act with regards to developing greater
opportunities for local law students, through summer clerkships,
internships and the like, so that we can show them the great career
opportunities that exist locally in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley
and at the same time assist in developing legal skills. There must
be greater collaboration between the University of Newcastle and
the local legal fraternity to ensure that these types of
opportunities are developed. The University has an obligation to
provide its graduates with an opportunity for employment and the
local legal community has an obligation to ensure that employment
opportunities exist within the area.
Newcastle has a thriving legal sector which has the potential to
provide a really comprehensive mentoring and skill building program
for undergraduate students, but only if there is greater
collaboration between students, the University of Newcastle and the
local legal profession.
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about your specific circumstances.
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