Law industry overview

A highly sought-after career with a wide scope of opportunities, the once-traditional landscape of the industry is evolving with technology and increasing client expectations.
Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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Entering the legal industry can mean a number of things: working for a firm in the role of a solicitor or barrister providing legal advice and representation, and preparing legal documents. Or it could mean working in a legal aid office, providing legal advice and advocacy services to those in need. It can also mean working as in-house counsel at a company, or processing patents. You might also find yourself creating or advising on policy for the government and lobby groups.

While law continues to enjoy an ever-increasing popularity with students, traditional opportunities on the other side of a degree are becoming fewer while the pace of the legal industry continues to climb.

In response to client demand for better value for money and contained prices, technology use has increased and alternative business models have sprung up, with firms doing everything possible to set themselves apart in the market. There’s never been a better time to enter the legal industry with an entrepreneurial bent.

The rise of lawyers using social media to network, offer advice and market their services has grown exponentially.

The average starting package for grads is above average at $72,000 but they do the longest hours of any profession, averaging in at around 49 hours a week.

GradAustralia Law sector overview for graduates

Job market outlook

Companies are taking on counsel in-house to engage in legal consultation earlier in the business decision-making process, avoiding errors that might require firm consultation further along.

As a result of this decline to their corporate commissions, firm budgets have tightened and it is now imperative that graduates perform at the top of their game throughout the interview process and on the job when applying to firms, but there are more opportunities opening up for those wanting to try the corporate sector on for size.

Litigation is slowing down, while mergers and acquisitions are on the rise. It appears customers are wanting to get their deals right up-front, instead of ironing out problems later on.

Greenfield business models are springing up everywhere, with technology enabling lean teams to tackle what would have previously taken the work of a small firm, and legal project management is also becoming an important piece of work for costing projects to appease nervous or fiscally-focused clients.

Government graduate programs are steady, with legal advisors consistently required across the breadth of government portfolios.

How to get hired

Because of the stiff competition faced by grads, it’s crucial to set yourself apart with work experience and extracurricular activities. Work on building a solid CV with a clerkship, summer internship or work shadowing, and show that you have a personal interest in the work you do via the activities you undertake out of hours — anything from manning the phones at a legal aid office to organising a social event for the university law society.

Having specialist skills, such as being fluent in another language, will help to set you apart from the crowd and give you the edge over other candidates.

If you’re confident or have a novel idea on how to practice, you could even become one of the entrepreneurs that sets up an alternative law practice using technology and social media to market your services.

Key skills you need

Emotional intelligence

Any law practice revolves around working with people, so being able to relate to and empathise with a client’s situation will help you understand and advocate for them better.

Communication

Law requires advanced communication skills, as it involves a lot of reading, writing and speaking.

Creativity

It’s essential to be able to come up with ideas, solutions, suggestions and possibilities to help win your case or seal a deal, so be prepared to demonstrate these skills during interviews.

Alternatives to law

If you’re considering law, you might also like to consider…