Issue 02 | Article 04

Not as sexy as the screens

7 realities every new lawyer needs to face when entering the commercial world.

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Published 18/01/2021

Published 18/01/2021

From Harvey Specter to Ally McBeal, the lawyers we see on our small screens certainly make the profession look glamorous. But as a newly practising lawyer, you’re likely already discovering just how much grunt work is involved.   


Okay, so you may have anticipated some of the BIG reality checks – like long hours, billing pressures and demanding clients. But it’s highly likely that your Bachelor of Laws did not quite prepare you for the myriad of smaller, daily challenges you are now encountering.

Here are 7 hurdles we’ve identified legal graduates don’t often see coming – and our insider tips on CPD programs that will help you clear the jumps.  


1. Knowing where to begin your research

When you dished out the assignments during your Bachelor of Laws, they also conveniently handed you a reading guide and a summary of cases. 

But unfortunately, in the commercial world, your boss won’t email you a summary of relevant legislation to refer to. 

Researching case law and finding appropriate legislation is a lot harder than most anticipate. And knowing where to start can seem like finding that elusive needle in a haystack.


2. Coping with information overload

What do doctors and lawyers have in common? 

Clients that come into their office with a prognosis… from Google

You’ve likely already had at least one client who has told you very boldly (and wrongly) what area of the law relates to their case – and how they’re going to win. 

From clients who can’t discern fact from fiction to those getting excited over legislation from another jurisdiction; it’s rarely quick and easy to uncover that one source of truth.


3. Learning how to research – like a lawyer 

When it comes to finding that all-important source of truth, you should only be referring to legitimate legal resources – such as Ford, Austin & Ramsay (sorry, Google).

These types of resources should be your go-to for referencing legislation. Why? Because they’re updated daily, so you’ll never be caught out giving ‘old’ advice.

You probably would have heard about these platforms during your law degree, but not necessarily how or when to use them. A solid grounding in how to use them is vital to your everyday work.


4. Unravelling the full picture is messy – aka no case exists in isolation

The nature of university assignments means you’re only honing in on one specific issue in a case. Reality isn’t quite so neat and segmented.

Say you have a client who comes to you for advice on a contract. You not only need to understand the contract itself, but all the implications that might arise from signing it. 

A good lawyer needs to know how to look at the issue at hand and predict the domino effect that may follow.  


5. Racing against time (when everything is due yesterday)

When you were studying, you were typically given several weeks to complete an assignment. But in a firm, you are likely to have much tighter deadlines, forcing you to juggle many urgent demands at once.  

This means you’ll need to learn how to research and draft advice a lot faster – and under a lot more pressure – than you’re used to.


6. Learning that drafting is more complicated than first thought

Drafting is one of the most daunting areas for new legal professionals. And although you do it every day as a lawyer, you didn’t do a great deal of it at university. 

Perhaps writing isn’t your strong suit and you don’t know where to begin. Or perhaps you may be struggling to keep your documents concise and easy to read. 

Wherever your challenges lie, the ability to draft documents quickly and accurately is vital to your success as a lawyer. 


7. Figuring out how to deliver advice that clients can use

During your law degree, you had to get up to speed with all the technical terminology quickly – and use it consistently. 

But when it comes to communicating with clients in the real world, you certainly don’t want to rely on legal jargon. 

Instead, you need to know how to draft advice that  your clients can use. And that means learning how to write in plain, simple English. 

This information has been brought to you by…

Thanks to The College of Law lecturers Simone Dixon and Natalie Wieland for their insights into the struggles new lawyers face when entering the workforce.