Volume 3, Issue 8, (Originally Published on Monday 29th April)
Guys, I’ve been bitten by the mid-semester cynicism bug.
I don’t know what I want to do with my degree, I don’t know why I care about judicial review, and the ideals I came to the MLS with have long left the building, tumbling hopelessly across the Pelham Street wind tunnel.
I googled ‘disillusioned law student’ for the purposes of this piece and my laptop nearly imploded under the wealth of Google Search options.
This was all brought on by summer resumé building and clerkship applications forcing me to do what I’ve so successfully avoided for 25 years: think seriously about the future.
The entire exercise has left an unusual sense that I’m being funnelled into a desperate, all-or-nothing clerkship application process, rather than being suitably matched based on skill and interest. I understand the inherent value of clerkships, but feel nothing for the process, nor the pool of placement options of which I never really wanted in the first place.
So how does one tackle the despondency of law school disillusionment?
For a start, when thinking about legal career options, it’s unwise to assume that you’ll fit into the one-size fits all lawyer mould that can be so heavily promoted in the course content. Many of you will make fantastic private sector lawyers, making your firm of choice fabulously rich in the process. Some of you have already started looking absolutely smashing in a suit and tie around the building.
I’m a fan of that.
But there are countless other career avenues in which to put your hardearned law degree to work.
Fortunately, I’ve done the work for you, so they’re outlined below. You can thank me later. With coffee.
1. For those with a taste for the political, there are policy-advising positions for local, state or federal government agencies to consider. Most positions are situated in our favourite cowtown, Canberra, but dedicated research will bring up a bevy of Melbourne-based positions. The pay won’t be as delectable, but you’ll have a higher chance of feeling as if the work you do means something.
2. For those with a skill for the quill, a career in legal publishing beckons. An editor of legal publications will utilise their exceptional skills in research to keep abreast of current and past legal cases and legislation, and can often be called upon to pass commentary on them. It’s academic-lite!
3. For those that want in on court action, without necessarily bringing an action to court, there are countless administrative positions within the Australian court system that provide invaluable insight into the practical application of the law. Registrars, judge’s associates, you name it, the work is there. Get your foot in the door and advancement is almost guaranteed, with on the job learning a certain advantage.
4. For those that like helping people see that their demands are stupidly obnoxious, a career in alternative dispute resolution may be your cup of tea. You don’t necessarily need to have a law degree to achieve mediator accreditation, but a thorough understanding of the realities of the law will ensure you can help clients highlight that pre-litigation settlement is their best bet. You’ll need excellent communication and conflict resolution skills, an ability to remain impartial, and an astronomical amount of patience.
5. For those of you with an eye on international affairs, international development agencies are very keen on picking up intelligent, world-savvy law students. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch offer internships at various locations around the globe. You’ll be conducting research, drafting documents, monitoring human rights violations, and participating in advocacy work in the event of those violations. If you’re fluent in a second language, all the better.
6. And for those of you that just like doing your own damn thing, take the initiative and open your own business. You’ll be your own boss, have flexible hours (a bonus for those of us with families at home), and your MLS experience will leave you perfectly capable of drawing up super inflexible contracts to lock your clients into.
The relevance of a law degree can extend well beyond the practice of law, and of itself tells potential employers that you’re intelligent, disciplined, hardworking and highly analytical, qualities that are relevant and transferable to just about any career you can think of. So think outside of the box when it comes time to make those icky decisions about ‘the future’. I still have no freakin’ idea what I want to do with this degree, but you’ve got to admit my options are pretty peachy.