One law degree, many options: every graduate’s dilemma

Emma Berry
Emma said that although she plans on becoming a lawyer she thinks that the opportunity to experience non-legal work has been extremely beneficial.

A law degree instils diverse skills in students that are both valuable to a broad range of employers and applicable to many professional areas.

“Should I pursue being a lawyer, or follow another path?”

That‘s the question every law student asks themselves at some point during their degree. 

It can be difficult to answer; some quickly decide to follow a legal career, but many are unconvinced. The law graduate market is difficult to break into and can require completing Practical Legal Training (PLT) while working in a non-lawyer role. As law students and graduates, we should remember that it can be hard to earn the coveted graduate lawyer position at a law firm or government agency. 

This should not deter you from pursuing a legal career, though. Most providers allow students to complete their PLT within six months, after which your experience and qualification will assist you in moving into a lawyer role. 

However, your legal qualifications shouldn’t prevent you from considering the non-law path. 

A law degree instils diverse skills in students that are both valuable to a broad range of employers and applicable to many professional areas. It’s wise to remember that a non-law career does not mean your prestigious, expensive degree is wasted. It also doesn’t prevent you from pursuing a legal career later. 

After graduating last year with a Bachelor of Laws/Commerce, it was difficult for me to decide which career path I wanted to take.
 
I accepted a position working as a graduate in the Australian Public Service, hoping to develop old skills and learn new ones. I have also been simultaneously studying full time to complete a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the Australian National University.

Working as a graduate in the public service, I have been able to apply my legal skills in new and unique ways. I have also combined this with learning new skills. 

In a recent rotation, I worked as a capability analyst and provided analytical advice on projects. Having no experience in capability projects, this opportunity challenged me to explore my legal analytical skills and apply them to the work I was doing.

This experience has been invaluable and I know these new skills will benefit me in a future lawyer role. 

Although I plan on moving into a lawyer role in the near future, I think the opportunity to experience non-legal work has been extremely beneficial. 
For those law graduates uncertain where they see themselves in the future, or who are interested in diversifying their skills, I would highly encourage applying for graduate programs or entry-level roles where you can use your legal skills in non-legal areas.

Considering other options will ensure that while you work towards becoming a practising lawyer you acquire skills highly valued by your future employer. 

By exploring non-legal options, you just might find the answer to where your career may lead.

Emma Berry, who works in the Australian Public Service, received the 2018 ANU Indigenous Students’ Practical Legal Training Scholarship and is undertaking a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the ANU School of Legal Practice.
 

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team