By Tanya Garreffa and Cecilia Moon
We work as graduate lawyers at Harwood Andrews in the dispute resolution and business law teams. We graduated at the end of last year, from Deakin and Australian Catholic University, and can tell you honestly that finding a graduate position is the first step in the long and rewarding journey that is your career in law. Whether you are stepping into a position as a graduate lawyer, building expertise in a particular industry, or looking to complete your practical training, life outside of university can be daunting.
We have put together a list of tips that have come from our own transitions from life as a student, to life as a graduate lawyer.
- We had to learn how to not be a student (it’s harder than you’d think).
As a uni student, life is full of learning, pretty stationary, and more importantly, time. Some things don’t change when you enter the workforce. You still have to learn, you still need to meet deadlines and of course the need for stationary never goes away.
There are some big changes that come with stepping out of student life. For example, there isn’t a study guide or a unit outline that tells you what you need to learn and so you don’t always know what you don’t know. It’s something you figure out over time (and it’s 100% okay to admit). Secondly, there is a lot more responsibility that comes with your work. You aren’t just given a grade. What you do can impact the decisions clients make in the short and long term. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone.
- You learn the value of having a good team, and brilliant mentors.
That is one of the most frustrating aspects of grad year – you really don’t know as much as you want to. The good news is that you aren’t alone! If you’re lucky, like we are, you have your fellow grads to lean on. You also have your team. Trust me, they are the smartest, most experienced and diverse lawyers going around, and they all remember what it’s like to start at the bottom. Make sure to take the time to form relationships with them. Sometimes, this comes naturally, and sometimes you need to put in a little more effort, but trust us, it is worth it in the end. You’ll look back in 1 month, 4 months, 12 months and be amazed at how far you’ve come, and how far you still have to go.
- The need for ‘networking’ doesn’t disappear.
In fact, get ready to do it for the rest of your life! For a business lawyer, networking is key to meeting potential clients and maintaining existing relationships. For any lawyer, it is a great way to become connected to your community and to meet others in your profession.
Geelong has a great collection of networking groups, such as Geelong Young Professionals, Geelong Young Lawyers Association and Business & Professional Women (just to name a few). If your firm offers you membership to any groups, we recommend you take them, especially if you’re new to the region. Remaining a part of things which you have always been passionate about is also great networking.
Sometimes, the benefits of networking can take awhile to eventuate. The good news is, that the more events you attend, the easier it becomes to network (you even start to look forward to it).
- We can take more time for the things we love.
Though we can no longer sleep until 10 then enjoy a leisurely avocado toast and latte, having a job with set hours makes it much easier to plan the day and, when the day is finished, enjoy our free time however we want, without needing to study.
Being part of sports teams or other leisure groups can be great networking. It’s often easier to connect over a shared interest, and you’d be surprised how many of your colleagues’ clients are old school friends or basketball partners.
Taking time to do the things we love is also very important for mental health. Graduate year can be challenging, and sometimes it’s tempting to stay late at work. Sometimes that’s necessary, but often, especially as a junior, it’s alright to clock off.
From personal experience, decompressing from work can also improve your productivity, and build your reserves so you can last through the occasional long day.
- Life doesn’t get (that much) easier.
Well, it does. Especially if you hate exams and studying. But, as the name suggests, work can be hard work, incredibly hard rewarding work.
Remember why it is you are doing what you are doing, lean on your team and each other, continue to do the things you love doing, and you will find grad year is nothing like what you expected.