Somewhere between cramming for exams and mastering the art of inconspicuously online shopping in class, my five years of studying a Bachelor of Law, Bachelor of Media and Communications at university is coming to an end.
Long behold, the bright-eyed young woman who entered university adamant to work for the United Nations upon graduation is finally free to leave the clutches of her educational institution with a $50k+ HECS debt into an oversaturated workforce plagued with uncertainty.
Graduating university can be a turbulent experience for the best of us, particularly when you have invested the better half of a half a decade into preparing for an industry. No longer are you bound by the structure and certainty of set weekly readings and subject outlines, instead you are left to carve your own professional destiny and work your way up the metaphoric ladder.
I imagine this new-found independence as Darwinism of the legal world. Survival of the fittest. Some of us will swim, a lot of uswill sink. Call me a pessimist if you may, but this sentiment is something my fifth year colleagues also attest to. My girlfriends and I embody a prime example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The most organised of us for example was preparing herself for a legal job since day one. Somehow she knew everything the lecturer was going to say before the lecturer’s words even rolled off their tongue. Incessantly she applied and was rejected for legal positions. After her hundredth expression of interest form, she received a call back and a job offer. She settled in a workplace she doesn’t like, in a division she doesn’t like. Irrespective, she is grateful to have an opportunity in the industry.
My other girlfriend on the other hand is one of wittiest and most perceptive people on God’s green earth. She’s a natural. Everything she does comes easy to her. She is uncharacteristically anxious about securing employment in the industry. When we drink we talk about how cut-throat the legal industry is and how genuinely worried we are about our employment prospects. After all these years we’ve become just as cynical when we’re sober. Most of the other original friends we started law-school alongside have since transferred degrees.
These qualms and concerns are not without cause, evident through statistics published in the Australian Financial Review indicated that the employment prospects for law graduates were grim – with almost 15,000 law graduated entering a job market of just 66,000 solicitors. Whilst the Law Society of New South Wales disputes the statistics presented by the Australian Financial Review, claiming that the Australian Law Deans found that there were merely 7,583 Law student graduated in 2015 (as seen below), the Law Society of New South Wales does not contend that graduate employment rates are poor. Consequently, the Law Society has committed to gathering more statistics on graduate numbers, track employment trends, encourage participation of government, firms and corporations in goal setting and provide targeted training to new graduates.
I plan to research the experiences and perceived job-readiness of recent graduates, and those who are near graduation, of the legal profession. The main question I will pose to participants is ‘have you gained employment in the industry?’ and ‘do you feel equipt to work in the legal industry?’.
I chose to focus on the legal profession as whilst arguably university graduate opportunities are dismal in every profession, my personal experience alongside the experiences of my peers, the colloquial sentiment shared by many that “everyone is doing law” as well as statistical data shows that the legal profession is particularly struggling with facilitating graduates. Upon completing my research, I hope to shed light on the authentic and unfiltered experiences of others who are in similar position to my friends and I and report the empirical experiences of law students entering the industry.
Considering the time restraints with collecting said data, this data will have to be derived from a sample group of people as it is unattainable and unrealistic to gather information from every university and/or graduate lawyer. This sample group of soon to be law graduates and law graduates will represent various prominent law-schools from New South Wales to ensure my finding are not skewed or contingent on one particular law- school and their practices of preparing students for the profession. I plan to advertise my research on various law-school Facebook pages and approach recent graduates through professional mediums such as Linked In, to ensure the data I collect is not skewed by my friendships, biases and context.
The Conversation. (2015). Graduating into a weak job market: why so many grads can’t find work. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/graduating-into-a-weak-job-market-why-so-many-grads-cant-find-work-45222 [Accessed 13 Mar. 2018].
Graduatecareers.com.au. (2017). Employment and Salary Outcomes of Higher Education in 2017. [online] Available at: http://www.graduatecareers.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/GradStats-2017-3.pdf [Accessed 12 Mar. 2018].
Law Society of New South Wales. (2018). Future Prospects of Law Graduates. [online] Available at: https://www.lawsociety.com.au/cs/groups/public/documents/internetcontent/980877.pdf [Accessed 8 Mar. 2018].