Scales of Social Justice

6 April 2009

About half of Australia's law students don't go on to pursue a legal career but do gain other valuable and transferable skills, often including a passion for social justice, according to the Dean, Professor Gillian Triggs.

In an article by Melinda Ham, as part of a recent Careers Supplement in the Sydney Morning Herald, Professor Triggs said that of the 450 law students who graduate each year from Sydney Law School, about 50 per cent to 60 per cent are not practising law four to five years later.

"Law is becoming a generalist education degree," she said.

"A law degree teaches you analytical thinking, persuasion and advocacy.

"When I welcome the new students at the beginning, I can see how bright-eyed they are, keen to work at the Redfern Legal Centre or do other similar work and my job is to keep that passion burning."

The article also focssed upon Dr Thalia Anthony, who graduated with an LLB from Sydney in 2006 but in the middle of her study was inspired to start researching indigenous issues.

Simultaneously, she completed a PhD examining a legal dispute affecting Northern Territory indigenous communities over the past 100 years.

"I have done a lot of paralegal work with Aboriginal Legal Services and I work with lawyers but I have the luxury to have a more global view of issues and maybe step back a bit," she said.

"At a lot of the bigger universities, most students feel the pressure to take up clerkships and then take up graduate positions in a big commercial firm.

"It's the usual and routine path and it's comfortable to take that attractive offer and earn the money.

"With the ongoing financial crisis, at this moment I sense that more law students are looking at the alternative career paths and I hope that more will see how they can use their training with a social-justice focus."

Contact: Greg Sherington

Phone: +61 2 9351 0202

Email: 0c1f5613436a1d233e1e0406065d3e76163b353d42363c26645023