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Are Law Grads Headed Toward a Dead-End Profession?

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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world in ways we never thought possible, with most countries heading into the biggest recession since 2008. Industries have been hit hard, with many businesses closing or moving online in an attempt to cut costs and save money on overheads. The legal profession has also been hit surprisingly hard, with many lawyers and law students labelled as being in a “dead end” career – why is that?

Law school is expensive and student loans aren’t getting any cheaper, either, so if someone is choosing to adventure into the law profession, then they need to be equipped to handle, or avoid, hitting that dead-end wall that seems to be awaiting a lot of law graduates that had entered the profession. In fact, lots of law graduates now aren’t taking jobs in the legal field, or are taking jobs that are paying significantly less than what they should be getting paid.

Are you thinking of studying law, or are you graduating soon? Here are our top tips!

Specialize Within Your Field

One of the best things about law is that for every major school, there are little nooks and crannies filled with specific niches that need to be filled. Are you a copyright lawyer? Cool, but are you an internet copyright lawyer? As the world continues to explore new avenues to communicate or new ways to accomplish its goals, there are going to be laws that need to be made and people to interpret those laws. This constantly changing landscape creates space for lawyers to further specialize in the field they might have studied in school.

For example, these are some of the many speciality options for a personal injury lawyer:

  • Bicycle accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Brain and spine injuries
  • Bus accidents
  • Car accidents
  • Catastrophic injury
  • Medical malpractice
  • Negligent security
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Product liability
  • Premises liability
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Wrongful death.

If the trend in what type of lawyers get hired for specific listings, then it could turn into a self-propagating cycle: if only lawyers who are specialized in specials niches get hired, then lawyers will start specializing in specific niches and it could be possible to find space for all of the lawyers – space to actually practice law.

Is It Really Over?

The short answer, no. The number of American Bar Association-approved schools is on the rise – is it because it’s answering a set amount of demand from the undergraduates who are looking to go into law? The amount of people graduating from law school is also on the rise to complement the number of schools that are offering the path of study to a JD (Juror’s Doctorate).

The average salary of new lawyers has been decreasing, but it still hasn’t depressed itself down to the amount it was when it was at its worst during the recession. Hiring for an entry-level lawyer and legal office positions is also on the lower side, indicating that there isn’t a need for fresh graduates or paralegal professionals in law offices around the country.

One of the big reasons for this transition away from fully stocked officers is that clients are now able to do their own legal searches – and in some cases (such as bankruptcy) are able to file their own legal documents and claims, making a lawyer a superfluous and expensive tool. In fact, you can get a lot more than bankruptcy forms at the uscourts.gov website – access to the forms still doesn’t guarantee successful completion and submission, but with so many legal offices offering free clinics, lawyers are almost totally unnecessary in some cases.

Taking A Hiatus

A lot goes into legal cases even before shoes ever hit a courtroom floor and that kind of required commitment can burn out even the most dedicated lawyer. One easy and simple way to avoid driving yourself, or to suggest to others who might be close, to hitting that wall is to take a break. A hiatus can, in some circles, be viewed as throwing in the towel or giving up on whatever cause you’re championing, but when you’re devoting so much time and so much of yourself to one thing, a break can sometimes be the healthiest choice to make. It allows you to step back and view your situation with an outside perspective instead of viewing it from the eye of the hurricane.

Works Referenced:

Special thanks to Eileen O’Shanassy for providing us with this article. Eileen is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking, and you can find her on Twitter @eileenoshanassy. 

How To Become A Lawyer in the USA

The US is the epicentre of Law in the world. It boasts some of the very best Law schools, often referenced in movies and TV shows as they are so iconic. Law schools in the US are part of public or private universities that grant Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees. The J.D. program typically lasts three years for full-time students and four years for part-time students. The first year of law school is generally considered to be the most difficult because of the core classes, exams, and the Socrates method. Instead of studying Law straight out of college/sixth form, you can only study Law in America once you have already completed a degree. This could be Law, but it could also be any degree.

Top 10 Law Schools in the U.S.

According to U.S. News, here are the top 10 law schools in the USA.

  1. Yale University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University
  4. Columbia University
  5. University of Chicago
  6. New York University
  7. University of Pennsylvania (Carey)
  8. University of Virginia
  9. University of California – Berkeley
  10. Duke University

US Law School Requirements

  • To study Law in the USA you must first complete a Bachelor’s degree. It can be related to Law studies, but that is not mandatory. Law schools accept all candidates that finished a Bachelor’s degree, regardless of their former fields of study.
  • Take the LSAT – an official exam that tests your critical and analytical abilities – necessary for further pursuing a Law degree.
  • How good is your English? Some universities in America will require you to prove your language skills with an exam like TOEFL.
  • If you’re an international student, you’ll also require a student visa to study in the U.S.

Curriculum

During the three or four years of studying Law, you will have classes that will cover topics such as administrative law, legal theory, analytical legal methods, bankruptcy, business law and ethics, civil rights, constitutional law and much more.

Between the 2nd and the 3rd year, most local and international students in the United States engage in an internship program in order to gain practical experience that can sometimes lead to a future job after graduation. Beginning with the 3rd year, you can choose elective courses tailored for the particular Law speciality that will define your future career.

Specialisations in Law in the United States include:

  • International Law
  • Public Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Business Law
  • Patent Law

American Law degrees can mean a comfortable life and stable finances. Even graduates of lower-ranked law schools are typically making six-figure incomes within 12 years after graduation. Graduates of higher-ranking schools typically earn more than $170,000!

Law School: Are You Cut Out for It?

Movies and television often portray lawyers and law students as loud, pompous individuals with a natural talent for arguing. The reality of law school is based much more on work ethic than on natural talent. Before you apply to a law school and commit to a career in law, here are some things you should be aware of.

Reading/Analytical Skills

During the course of your law career, you will read countless documents. If your ambition is to become an attorney, you had better love to read. Or at least have excellent comprehension skills. Law students spend hours each day reading and writing. This is to prepare them for the hours they will spend reading and writing when they start their career. Any case, big or small, requires some kind of preparation. Analyzing different documents and making decisions will be daily work.

Professors

Law school professors are no joke. Most of them have sat where you are sitting and want to prepare you thoroughly for what you will deal with later in your career. Others may be bitter about where they are in their own careers and will try to make your life miserable. Either way, they are the ones doling out grades so aim to please.

Confidence

Being able to take criticism and use it to improve yourself will be an advantage as you advance through law school. This will translate in the courtroom as well. Dealing with “good old boy” clubs and preconceived notions about your skill as a lawyer may be challenges that you face. If you turn into a sloppy mess whenever someone offers you a suggestion, you may need to toughen up and remember the skills that got you to where you are.

Time Management

This is a big one. The life of a law student is busy, to say the least. Make sure that you are able to commit to the time and energy it takes to be successful. When you are looking for resources to help you to achieve your law ambitions, consider a paralegal degree. Paralegals are highly desired by excellent legal teams. A master’s degree program that is online may be a great fit for a busy lifestyle.

People Skills

Although lawyers do spend plenty of time alone researching and reading through documents, they do need to have good listening skills in order to work with clients. Law students will find that working with their own peers will help them to strengthen and develop those “people skills”. This should translate to successful interactions later in their career.

A career in law can be an amazing and fulfilling journey. It is not always a picnic, but being prepared for what is to come is half the battle. The time and money spent is an investment with potentially great rewards to those willing to commit to tough classwork and even more challenging careers.

Article contributed by Anita Ginsburg, a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado, USA.

How to Become a Lawyer in Australia

If you are looking for a rewarding career, you’ll find that studying law can take you just about anywhere you want to go. Here’s how to become a lawyer in Australia.

Why Study Law?

Legal qualifications are not just for lawyers!

Whilst a law degree can most certainly lead to an exciting and challenging legal career as a solicitor or barrister, it can also open the door to a wealth of opportunities in almost every industry sector you can think of.

Law alumni have applied their legal qualifications to build high-flying careers all over the world, working in business management, banking and finance, politics and government.

Steps to becoming a lawyer (solicitor)

To practise as a solicitor in Queensland, students need to complete the following four steps:

  • Completion of an approved law degree (LLB or JD)
  • Completion of an approved practical legal training (PLT) course to obtain the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice or completion of a supervised traineeship at a firm
  • Application for admission to Roll of Lawyers 
  • Application for a practising certificate 

Step 1. Law Degree

There is no ‘one size fits all’ law degree program. They range from three-year undergraduate LLB programmes to double-degree undergraduate programmes lasting up to six years, to three-year Juris Doctor (JD) programmes for those who already have an undergraduate degree.

The Council of Australian Law Deans has a list of all Australian law schools.

Step 2. Graduate Training

All states, except Western Australia, require law graduates to complete Practical Legal Training (PLT) before being admitted to practice.

A number of universities offer a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. This qualification focuses on the practical skills lawyers need to succeed including negotiation, dispute resolution, advocacy, interviewing clients, and legal writing and drafting.

In Western Australia, the Legal Practice Board administers an Articles Training Programme, which works in conjunction with an articled clerk’s workplace experience to provide a foundation for subsequent practice. Western Australia students can opt to undertake PLT instead.

Step 4. Admission to Practice

Graduates of the Diploma in Legal Practice and Western Australia residents who have completed an Articled Clerkship can seek admission to legal practice through the Law Admitting Authority in their state.

Admission to practice is a lifelong privilege that can only be revoked in cases of misconduct or criminal conviction. Once admitted to the profession, lawyers must also apply for and maintain a practising certificate.

Practitioners admitted to other Australian jurisdictions

Mutual recognition legislation generally allows for lawyers admitted in a certain Australian jurisdiction to gain admission to practice in other states and territories in Australia.

You can obtain a practising certificate in Queensland from

  • The Queensland Law Society (as a solicitor)
  • The Queensland Bar Association (as a barrister)

Solicitor and Barrister – What is the difference?

Barrister

A barrister is a lawyer in the common-law system who specialises in litigation.

This may mean that they advise on the outcome of cases, the strategic elements of running a court case, as well as being involved in the drafting of documents related to court cases.

The major role of the barrister is to conduct court appearances. There are many tasks which a barrister performs in their role as a court advocate. They will need to present the opening in the case, they will need to argue the points of law and evidence as they emerge in relation to their client’s interests. They will need to examine witnesses, cross-examine witnesses and, if necessary, re-examine witnesses. In a criminal matter, they may need to address the jury on the facts of the case and what they believe the verdict is in relation to their client or, if they are the prosecutor, on the guilt of the client.

Solicitor

A solicitor, on the other hand, spends most of their time out of court.

Solicitors are involved in the day-to-day legal affairs of their clients, primarily focused on tasks such as

  • conveyancing of property transactions
  • or providing legal services to businesses such as
  1. drafting contracts
  2. the protection of intellectual property
  3. the filing of defamation suits
  4. advice on regulatory issues
  5. or any other type of legal service which their clients will need in order to assure their business processes.

Some solicitors work in government departments, where they do corporate work for large government organisations; or they may work for legal aid department and be funded by public money to service clients who cannot afford to pay for legal services.

So as you can see there is a big difference between a solicitor and a barrister. They have different roles and are specialised in different tasks.

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Studying Law in Australia

Why Study Law in Australia?

An Australian law qualification will equip you with the skills needed for legal practice and beyond, says law school dean Professor Michael Coper.

Australia loves to have international students. The benefits flow in all directions. International students learn about a new culture and take a little bit of Australia back home. At the same time, international students enrich our campuses with their cultural diversity. It is no overstatement to say that international student exchanges and foreign study make a major contribution to international understanding and, ultimately, therefore, to world peace.

The study of law has two dimensions: training for professional practice, and broader education in law as an intellectual discipline.

Professional training is undertaken at an undergraduate level (LLB), often in combination with liberal arts or another degree, or as a graduate of another discipline (JD). This professional training must cover a core curriculum for accreditation purposes, but it also incorporates the broader study of law. The LLB and JD are recognised not only in Australia for admission to legal practice, but also in some other countries as well.

Many international students undertake the LLB or JD in Australia, because of the renowned quality and growing international recognition of Australian legal education.

Many more undertake postgraduate programmes: diplomas, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees, by coursework or research or a combination of both. These programmes may offer further specialisations of particular relevance to legal practice, or broad explorations of legal themes, including jurisprudence, international law, and problems of law and society.

All Australian law schools are accredited for the admission of their graduates to legal practice in Australia, and most also offer postgraduate programmes.

The details of all of these programmes may be found in the Council of Australian Law Deans’ publication ‘Studying Law in Australia’ at – www.cald.asn.au/slia

In addition to equipping students for legal practice, legal education in Australia confers broad generic skills such as analytical reasoning, problem-solving, clear communication and practical negotiation, all of which equip graduates for a wide variety of careers.

Law students in Australia also study law for its intrinsic interest, as part of the glue that holds society together and explores its connections with other disciplines such as economics, history, philosophy, psychology and political science.

Australia loves to have international students, and international students love to come to Australia to study law. You get to come to a prosperous and welcoming country with an open society, a long tradition of commitment to the rule of law, and a mature and sophisticated legal system.

The High Court of Australia is frequently seen as an intellectual leader in the common law world, Australian jurists are held in high esteem, and Australian graduates are recognised internationally for their high skill levels.

Australian legal education has also become more and more internationalised in recent years, expanding the curriculum to embrace comparative perspectives and training lawyers for transnational practice. This makes it even more attractive for international students, as the discipline of law in Australia moves into, and adapts to, a globalised world.

Article written by Professor Michael Coper
Dean
ANU College of Law