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What to do when the traditional path into law isn’t for you

What to do when the traditional path into law isn’t for you

By Shaniya Vilash

Workplace Workplace Relations Young Persons 


Many of us know the stress that law school and a legal career can bring. The countless sleepless nights studying for exams, preparing applications for clerkship season and giving it your all in an interview, only to find out it didn’t land you that dream job.

Sound familiar?

Increasingly, law graduates and young lawyers are choosing alternative pathways to kickstart their careers, instead of following the standard university-to-clerkship-to-graduate route within big law firms. There are so many appealing options now ranging from legal tech to boutique specialists and in-house counsel. You might just end up somewhere that you had never considered in law school.

Here are four tips if you don’t get that role and are considering alternative pathways:

  1. Get creative

Try to find a work around or a creative alternative that still helps achieve your end goal. Just because one pathway doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that there can’t be another way.

For instance, did you know that you can attend two universities at the same time to complete separate undergraduate degrees in business and law? I didn’t, but that is what I ended up doing when I didn’t get into the commerce and law course that I wanted straight after high school. I began my Bachelor of Business at one university and a year later my Bachelor of Laws at a separate university, finishing both degrees rather than transferring to a double degree.

  1. Do your research

It’s worth reading stories about other lawyer’s journeys to learn about different pathways available to you.

It’s also worth investing time in articles covering different practice areas to see what interests you. 

Don’t forget, research can also include reaching out to your wider network to bounce ideas off of and discover potential opportunities.

  1. Be open to opportunity

Try exploring as many areas and saying yes to the various opportunities that come your way. At times you may have options come up that don’t seem like the best move. Don’t shut the idea or opportunity down, instead try and consider what benefits it could bring you. Prior to practicing, I took on an eDiscovery role and, although not traditional, I believe it was one of the best decisions I made for my career.

You have to trust that these diverse experiences will help you grow and build your soft skills. It will add to your personal brand and value and, who knows, you might even have fun.

  1. Know your worth

Never forget what you bring to the table. Focusing on what is within your control, as opposed to comparing yourself to others, will help to achieve what you want. Place emphasis on your key strengths, not someone else’s. It’s easy to get swept up in other’s opinions on what is right or wrong, but in the end selling your story is what will be most important.

Don’t give up, explore all your options and focus on being the best version of yourself. You might just find that it works.

Shaniya Vilash is a Junior Corporate Counsel at Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd.


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