In 2018, on Canberra radio 2CC, the then Prime Minister of Australia Malcom Turnbull said:
“I actively discourage kids from doing law unless they actually want to be lawyers”.
Although maybe not apparently obvious (unless you are able to tie-in the relevance of the title of this post), Mr Turnbull’s comments were in reference to the number of students opting to study law here in Australia (where law remains part of a 5 year double degree) without any real desire to enter the profession.
As someone who had gone through the (admittedly English 3-year LLB undergraduate degree) university system in the early 1990s, I once heard it said that there were more students studying law than there were lawyers with practising certificates in England and Wales.
But here’s the thing, nearly all of us who had done our research (pre internet of things days), knew it. Most of us knew that a training contract was a far-off dream, especially as Student Loans were starting to kick-in.
Many didn’t even want to work in a Magic Circle firm – high street conveyancing was okay.
So are there too many people studying law?
Almost everyone I studied law with saw a law degree not only as a path to practising law but also as both an intellectual challenge and a gateway degree to better opportunities.
When considering that remark, keep in mind this was an era where having skills like a university degree (let alone one in law) allowed us to go overseas and work/travel (in my case that was 12 years in Asia and 14 years in Australia and I have still yet to see the inside of a court in England and Wales in any professional capacity).
So why am writing about all this now?
A couple of weeks ago The Law Society Gazette (England and Wales) wrote an article titled ‘Quarter of law grads face unemployment after university‘.
To which I posed a question on social media:
‘Do universities have a duty of care to ensure their students have real work prospects before accepting them onto their undergraduate program?
I think they do, but from many of the responses I received others think otherwise.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I believe that if you pay 10s if not 100s of thousand of dollars to do a 5-year undergraduate degree in law, you should have some level of reassurance there is a reasonable chance you can actually be a lawyer. After all, on grades you should be in top 5% or so of students in the country.
10 ‘non-legal’ roles you can do in a law firm with a law degree
On the chance you do happen to do a 5 year law degree, don’t want to be a politician/diplomat and actually want to work in a law firm who aren’t offering you a Training Contract, then here’s my list of 10 alternative ‘non-legal’ roles you can do in a law firm with a law degree:
- Management (COO, CEO)
- Business Development/Sales
- Legal Design/LPI
- Learning & Development
(NB: the use of ‘non-legal’ here is deliberate)
As always, the above represent my own thoughts only and would love to hear yours.