"I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I'd make a difference." -Christopher Darden
Many students start preparations for University law school at a young age for various reasons. Pressure from family to become a big shot attorney, wanting to help make a difference in the world, or just plain wanting to be rich and respected, are some of the reasons for this. There are many reasons a student would want to study for a degree that would allow them to become a legal professional.
There’s nothing particularly incorrect about any of the reasons above. Lawyers can make a significant difference in the world by providing their expertise to excellent causes, such as cases concerning the environment, or a marginalised group of people. They are also known for earning obscene amounts of money, wearing expensive clothing and driving top of the line cars. It’s no secret lawyers are well rewarded for the skills.
Let’s imagine you’ve done all the required study and acquired all the mandatory qualifications to graduate University law school and receive your law degree… now what?
The sky is the limit! There are so many jobs out there, and paths to further education, for those who have graduated with a law degree! Superprof is right here to introduce you to the options available in the field of legal work, and also just outside the direct field. Make the most of your legal studies and University education.
Qualifications Needed to Become a Lawyer in the Australia
Before beginning your university law applications, it is extremely important to know what prerequisites there are and how long the process will take. This knowledge will help you focus in your education and fit all the requirements of your chosen University and their undergraduate legal program. Make sure you know what diploma, certificate, degrees, or other education requirements there are so you can be the legal professional you want.
Secondary School Education
If a career in law has always been a goal for you, it is definitely important to start preparing while you are in high school. The best law schools in Australia will require an ATAR in the high 90’s to get in. Subject choice depends on what your interests and what you’re good at, however English, History, Legal Studies, Maths and other critical thinking subjects have been suggested by past law students as good preparation.
These types of subjects prepare students for essay writing and problem-solving which will be a large component of your law studies. They can also help prepare students for taking the Law School Admissions Test, which is a perquisite for some University law degrees in Australia.
Other qualifications such as Certificates or Diplomas acquired at TAFE or other institutions may come in to play if you are looking for some prior credit in your application to gain entry to study laws at a University campus in Australia.
It is important to do well in English studies, as many schools will require at least a study score of 30 as a prerequisite for entry in to their Bachelor of Laws program.
Be sure you know the requirements for your chosen degree so you can choose the right subjects and focus on gaining the skills, knowledge and experience that will be valuable when you become an undergraduate at an Australian University.
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Post Secondary Studies
After finishing secondary school with flying colours and a nice, shiny, high ATAR score to boot, you will most likely be looking at studying a Bachelor of Laws to start your law career.
What does this mean?
A Bachelor of Laws is a 4-year degree that teaches students all the essential and fundamental rules, principles, skills and knowledge needed before one starts to practice law. The skills acquired during this course will then open the door to a variety of job opportunities for the law graduate in question. For those not necessarily interested in following the path of law itself, there will be many career paths available, in industries such as commerce, finance, healthcare and politics, just to name a few.
During the four years of study, a typical degree will start with the fundamentals and principles and the move to different areas of focus for each year. Something you can expect would be:
- Year 1: students are required to study core subjects and learn principles of public and criminal law. You will most likely have a chance to select from a wide variety of non-law based electives.
- Year 2: in this year you can expect to learn about contract, tort and constitutional law, as well as engage with more non-law electives.
- Year 3: in your third year there will most likely be subjects covering property law and civil procedure. In this year you will start taking law-based electives as you begin to think about the exact type of law that you would most like to make part of your career post-uni.
- Year 4: your last year will bring subjects relative to company and administrative law as well as a chance to do a placement in a real life practice. You will finish with more law electives as well.
During these 4 years of study to attain your law degree, very few hours are spent in a classroom with a professor. Most of your studying will take place in the university library as you study independently.
After your final examinations and graduation, you are ready to join the workforce!
Career Options in the Field of Law
You've done your time at University and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the duration of your undergraduate and possibly graduate programs. So armed with your degree, proof of your education and years of study, it’s time to hit the streets with your resume and apply for some jobs!
There are so many career prospects for those who have law degrees. Melbourne University reports that of those that graduated with the Juris Doctor law degree in 2017, 98% were in employment 18 months after completing their degree. 73% were working as legal graduates (training to be lawyers) and many others were working in the legal field or other graduate roles.
So what jobs are there for someone with a law degree?
- Paralegal: if you thrive under pressure and would enjoy providing aid to qualified solicitors and barristers in a variety of law firms, becoming a paralegal may be your calling! You can apply for a job at a law firm as a paralegal if you possess a law degree. Paralegals carry out many tasks including organising case files, write legal reports and conduct legal research, bill the clients and attend court inquests.
- Licensed Conveyancer: those who took a strong interest in property law during university and have a keen eye for detail will be well-suited to this career! Licensed conveyancers buy and sell properties on behalf of clients. They manage the contracts, prepare mortgage deeds and transfers of money and check to see if the sales contract or property in question is all legalized.
- Barrister's Clerk: while no law degree is required to apply for barrister clerk jobs, it is highly recommended because a knowledge of basic laws and legal skills will greatly help you to progress and improve at this job. As a barrister clerk, you are responsible for running the administration and business activities of barristers' chambers.
For those wishing to work as a barrister, litigator or solicitor, more schooling is required, as you will need to pass the Bar exam and then complete approximately 10 weeks of study and a 9-month mentorship with a Bar approved lawyer.
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Barristers are specialists in law and represent individuals and organizations in court. Those who wish to become barristers in the future will need an affinity for analytical thinking and an ability to pay sharp attention to details. Those who become barristers can specialize in various areas of law, such as commercial, common (family, personal injury, etc.), criminal, entertainment and sporting.
It is important to note that a Bachelor in Laws is not enough to become a barrister by itself. Further education is required.
After receiving your Bachelor in Laws, aspiring barristers must complete an entrance exam to gain entry to the bar in their state. This is one of the final requirements in your quest to be a legal professional and make the most of your degree from an Australian University. All your education so far will play a part in you completing this course.
Upon passing this exam, barristers-to-be must complete a mentorship with an approved practicing lawyer that is a member of the bar themselves. The knowledge and experience gained in the duration of this time will be invaluable in your practice as a legal professional in Australia.
Law is up there as one of the most competitive professional fields, so it stands to reason that a lot of extra work is involved to become a practicing lawyer after attaining your degree.
Solicitors must complete Practical Legal Training after they get their degree to be eligible. This goes for about one year and is to prepare the solicitor for going out to work on their own.
There are countless job opportunities for those that possess a law degree and would like to step in to the legal world. This degree really does open doors in the world, and not just for those wanting to pursue a career in law and justice…
Careers Outside Law
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It may happen that you decide sometime during latter years of your legal studies that you don’t want to practice law, or be part of the legal system at all. That’s perfectly okay. Your law degree will still enable you to enter a variety of industries, backed by the proof that you had what it takes to finish that degree, and the knowledge and skills that are taught in the duration of that course.
Here are a few professional career options that are outside the field of law:
- Journalism: during your four years of studying for your degree in a University undergraduate Bachelor of Laws, you will have noticed that there was a lot of researching and reading to be done! If you enjoyed this aspect, perhaps a career in journalism could be right for you. Law students often move towards journalistic work so that they can keep using the researching and writing skills they honed in their degree. Well-trained ethics and legal knowledge can be huge assets for reporters., something taught in the course of your degree.
- Human Resources and Industrial Relations: if you specialised in employment law and industrial relations during your degree then these fields may provide a satisfying career choice for you. You will be job ready out of uni because of your advanced knowledge of workplace and business laws and how disputes can be settled.
- Activism: if you want to see change in the world, consider pushing the boundaries armed with your legal nous, and become an activist. Law students with advanced knowledge are of huge use to organisations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth. This path will help you make a difference during the course of your legal practice.
- Politics: many law graduates go in to politics with a similar mindset as activists, wanting to see real change in the world. Law graduates often become professionals on campaigns to make sure no laws are being broken. After a lecture or two, many undergraduate law students are disappointed to find out how little time a barrister spends in the courtroom delivering awe-inspiring speeches that bring jury members to tears. If a public platform is what you are after, consider politics. Politicians spend far more time presenting speeches, fighting debates and talking to the media.
- Teaching: don't forget about the noble field of education, after all, it's what got you to the position of legal graduate from an Australian University legal program. As a legal studies teacher or University tutor, you will have all the knowledge required to be able to apply yourself to a practice in education. Remember the teachers that were a help to you and contribute to the education and studies of other aspiring legal professionals. Australian schools are full of students who want the knowledge and skills to be a legal professional.
No matter what profession you decide to dedicate yourself to, one thing is certain for those with a law degree, there are plenty of choices. Make the most of your time as a professional by taking your experience, skills and knowledge as a laws graduate and find a form of work and practice that makes you happy and gets the most out of your studies in law and justice.