Beyond the Courtyard: An Introduction
By Lawrence Ward
‘I wish I’d learnt that in Law School’ is one statement I hope I will never have to make. Yet I get the feeling that most of us will. University cannot teach us everything – particularly more practical legal skills – so there will always be gaps in our understanding. Something we can influence is where those gaps may appear. At university we are taught to absorb all manner of case law and statute, while vacation clerkships and part-time industry work act to address our practical legal deficiencies. Much of the career information out there focuses on individual firms and job opportunities. Unfortunately, there is little priority placed on how the global legal market is evolving. A real understanding of the industry is often not gained until legal qualification has been achieved. To me, this practice seems counter intuitive. Why wait until qualification to educate ourselves about the industry into which we are entering?
This lack of knowledge about the legal market is a deficiency that can be easily addressed – and definitely should be addressed – at law school. While yesterday’s law students may have fought over a few spots at Perth’s handful of top tier domestic firms, today we find ourselves on the threshold of a global legal market where many of us will be treading new ground. Quite simply, the game has changed. The legal market of yesteryear is no more and so too our approach must evolve. In previous decades we may have known what to expect: the Australian legal scene was predictable and safe. You would have to be especially ignorant to believe that now: Asia has risen from its slumber and so too have the fortunes of this state.
Global wealth is moving from West to East; driven by the rampant demand of our neighbours to the north. First it was the miners – BHP, Rio, Chevron and Xstrata – looking to satiate China’s demand for ore and gas. More relevant for us is the procession of global law firms into our local market: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Norton Rose, King + Wood Mallesons and Allens Linklaters to name a few.
To an increasing extent, the experiences of our legal forbears are irrelevant. Perth is now part of a global network and we are faced with a marketplace that is as competitive as it is complex and dynamic. The skills of a lawyer have never been so transferable or found in such abundance. How then do we differentiate ourselves from an increasingly international competition? Therein lies the purpose of this blog.
The blog is intended to supplement a theoretical and practical knowledge of the law with a greater understanding of the rapid changes in the industry: the most significant changes to the legal market ever experienced in this country. By equipping ourselves with a superior knowledge of the market we will be able to better address the needs of the market and ultimately increase our employability. It is the aim of the blog to supply some of this knowledge. There will be articles on how the changes in degree structure will affect our employability, an in-depth look at the structure of the marketplace itself and an analysis of international career opportunities. However, the content of the submissions will ideally reflect the interests of the Law School as a whole, so I encourage you to send me as much information as possible, or even to write an article of your own.
I would also encourage as much comment and criticism as possible. This blog is not a means to an end; rather it is to be used as a tool to promote discussion. Ultimately, I hope it is easy to read, useful and goes some way towards bettering our collective understanding of the industry.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contribute in any way.