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Things to Know Before Entering Legal Practice

November 24, 2021 0 Comments

As a new crop of budding lawyers leave our Law Schools for their first jobs, here’s a sneak peek in the professional crystal ball of what might lay ahead…

There’s an old saying that the hardest thing about life is that you take the test before you receive the lesson, unlike in the classroom where it’s the other way around.

As a new crop of law grads leave Law School, hungry for the “real world” and the chance to put theory into practice, having some insight into what life in the legal profession will be like isn’t such a bad thing.

So, here are some things to think about as you enter the fray!

Study is just the springboard, not the practical toolkit

As with most professional qualifications, taking a Law degree builds the foundation upon which to launch a successful career. However, most practising lawyers will tell you that study is merely the very small appetiser before the main meal of practical learning begins.

So, while your studies are crucial to helping you get a grasp of how to apply law in the real world, the first year in the job is where much of the learning will occur.

Get ready for it – Uni will feel like a breeze once you’re in the thick of practice life!

Pressure from the bottom up

In your first year out of Law School, you’re back at the bottom of the pecking order, unlike some other professional roles where you are thrown straight into the mix.

For most new lawyers, it’s a trial by fire, with long hours working on often tedious-seeming tasks or cases. But don’t be put off by this. 

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While your head may be crammed with a library full of case law you want to apply to current cases, and you’re bursting to hit the courtroom or negotiation suite, the nitty-gritty of everyday practice that you absorb in your first year out sets you up far more realistically for the years and decades of practice to come.

Don’t be put off by what is thrown your way, or the volume of work you’ll be expected to take on. And don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the deluge of tasks that will come your way. Listen carefully to instructions you’re given, take notes and catch all the details that you need to ensure you get the task done (sounds a bit like Uni all over again, right?!).

Basically, be a sponge!

Alongside this, don’t try and measure how you’re doing against other newbies in your firm or Law School buddies at other firms. You’re not competing for top grades anymore to get you into the best firm possible – you already made the grade, and now the only yardstick is against yourself, and improving month on month, year on year.

Try different practice groups/areas of law

During your studies, you probably got a fairly good feel for what area of law you wanted to go on to practise in. While this may still hold once you secure your first role outside of school, remaining open to other possibilities could end up leading to a far more fruitful career.

If you can move around and be exposed to different areas of practice, do it – you might learn, to your surprise, that something that bored the hell out of you at school is far more interesting in practice.

By the same token, if you have a passion for a particular field of practice, don’t shy away from it, even if it’s less lucrative or “sexy” than others.

Given the hard slog a legal career can be, albeit one that generally pays above average in the long run, job satisfaction is still important and shouldn’t be shunted aside to chase prestige or big bucks.

Work-life balance may seem impossible but…

Like most roles where the first few years out of Uni are about establishing yourself, so a lot of hard work, the idea of a healthy work-life balance for new lawyers may seem impossible.

However, while there may be no way around those long hours, and professional time may often bleed into leisure time, do the best you can to tend to your physical and mental health. Part of this is having frank conversations with family, friends and partners about the reality of your frantic professional life, and ensuring that time outside of work hours that is yours can be spent with them in a way that is beneficial for you and them.

So, sneak in a sleep-in on the weekend, get out for a long walk or gym session, catch a movie with your partner, or a coffee or drink with friends. Have as much of a life as you can!

Graduating from Law School is an exciting reward after years of hard study, don’t be put off by the hard work that can still lay ahead. By going in open eyed and realistic about this, and also remaining open to the professional possibilities that could present, you can have a reading career in a range of legal jobs.

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