Survey: One in four Australian law students are not sure about their future intentions

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We often talk about the lack of opportunities that current Australian law students face when looking for work in what counts as the ‘New Normal’ in the world of legal in  Australia.

It was interesting to read, then, in a recently published survey of the 1,403 law students undertaken on behalf the Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW that:

“One in four law students were not sure about their future intentions, and one in ten intended not to practise as a lawyer.”

Of those students who did intend to practise as a lawyer (61%), only half (both female and male) anticipated working as a solicitor in private practice; while close to one third intend to work as a government lawyer, in-house corporate lawyer or as a barrister.

Those law students who do not intend practising law after graduation said they anticipated working in banking and financial services, government/politics or in corporate strategy.

Interestingly, given the cut backs in this area, one in five law students were proposing to work as a community-based legal service lawyer, with female law students the more likely to be studying law for altruistic reasons; including “having an interest in social justice“.

Less surprisingly, male law students were more likely to cite “a good income that a career in the law offers” and “the prestige and status that a career in the law would bring” as being their main drivers for studying the subject. Which probably proves beyond any reasonable doubt that females are smarter than males!

All in all, I’m not sure the outcome of this survey would have varied dramatically in my days studying law at university 20 years ago. That said, I know that my aspirations – in studying the subject – were to be a lot more like Geoffrey Robertson QC than the partner of a Magic Circle law firm.

As it turns out, I ended up being neither. Which is why survey’s like this are important in reminding us that we probably need to hold off telling law students that it’s all doom and gloom in the world of the “New Normal” and start with actually asking them what they want to do with their lives.

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