Government | Law


Lawyers working in government and public policy areas are at the forefront of law reform and public administration.

The Law Society of NSW Young Lawyers publication, Careers Guide to Public Law and Government 2009 and the 2016 UNSW Law Society Public Interest Careers Guide contain a wealth of information, advice and profiles of lawyers working in a wide range of jobs in public law and government.

The links here might help provide a starting point in your own research into careers in this area.

The NSW Government Graduate Program is a wonderful opportunity to see and learn first-hand how government works. Participants will receive 18 months' work experience across a range of government agencies, including the Department of Premier & Cabinet, Department of Justice, Department of Planning and Environment, and Treasury to name a few. An offer of ongoing employment will be made upon successful completion of the program. For further details watch the video from the NSW Government Graduate Program Information Evening held on 4 August 2016 at NSW Parliament House.

To apply for a role in the NSW Government, see the ‘How to Guide’ for Candidates published by the NSW Public Service Commission, together with tips from Ruth Beran. Ruth previously worked as a legal officer at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Alumni Story

GovernmentAlex Dixon (JD (Hons) '14)

I am a Federal Prosecutor at Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and commenced this role in February 2016.

What does a typical day in the job involve for you? One of the great things about working at the Commonwealth DPP is that there isn’t really a ‘typical day’. I’m in the Revenue and Benefits Fraud team so the majority of my work involves assessing briefs of evidence in line with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth, as referred to the CDPP by the Department of Human Services to determine whether a) there is sufficient evidence; and b) it is in the public interest to commence prosecution against a person for an alleged offence. However, I am also lucky enough to get a lot of appearance work in the Local Court, often on Commonwealth List days where I’m able to get exposure to an array of different offences prosecuted by our office. 

What route did you undertake to get this role? While at UNSW I tried to do as many relevant internships as I could to build up my experience in, and exposure to, criminal law and practice. For example, I worked part time in a barristers’ chambers and also at the Kingsford Legal Centre. After graduating, I spent a year in the Supreme Court of NSW as a Tipstaff to a Judge in the Common Law division. This role really solidified my interest in pursuing a career in criminal law and offered me a stepping-stone to my current position. By having relevant work experience, I was able to demonstrate a genuine interest in pursing a career in criminal law during the interview process.

How do you think your UNSW Law degree has equipped you for your role? UNSW Law has a great reputation for not only providing students with a solid grounding in substantive law, but also an eye for policy and social justice. I’ve found that UNSW Law graduates are regarded highly by employers and I’ve certainly benefited from the reputation of the Law School. I think the best thing about a UNSW Law degree is the focus on experiential learning. I benefited immensely from undertaking internships offered by UNSW - at Justice Policy and Kingsford Legal Centre - which gave me research and professional management skills that I still use on a day-to-day basis.

What advice would you give to UNSW Law students who are hoping to pursue your chosen career path? My advice would be to hit the ground running in terms of getting as much practical experience as possible. Enquire about internship opportunities early in your degree and follow through with them. Not only do they provide great exposure to the realities of practice, they also provide a great opportunity to create and build upon contacts in the industry. Developing a professional network is ultimately as important as your technical ability. At UNSW, there is the added bonus of being able to undertake internships that count towards your degree.