Law Firms | Law

Law Firms

Working as a solicitor at a law firm has long been the traditional starting point in the career paths of many law graduates.

Law firms come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some firms have incorporated, although the majority are still partnerships. More recently, a new breed of law firm - collectively called “NewLaw” - have entered the legal landscape.

Law firms include:

  • general practices - both city and suburban - which undertake a mix of legal work such as property, wills and estates, tax, family and criminal law;
  • specialist boutique firms - which offer specialist legal services in a specific field, such as construction, information technology, family, criminal and employment/industrial relations law, to name a few; 
  • the larger city commercial firms - both national and international - which offer legal services across a range of practice areas, such as banking and finance, corporate and commercial law, local government and environmental law, intellectual property, information technology, competition law, dispute resolution, construction and infrastructure etc;
  • NewLaw - the start-ups of the legal world. These are often very niche businesses blending technology with process-driven solutions and pricing strategies. Although still in their infancy, NewLaw firms range from secondment models, legal process outsourcers, on-line lawyer registries or quoting services, tech-driven businesses through to full-service law firms that prioritise flexible arrangements and innovative pricing.
    LegalVision's White Paper - Transforming the Legal Landscape: the NewLaw Philosophy - provides an interesting introduction to NewLaw and some of the key trends that are driving innovation in the legal industry, including the use of technology and alternative methods for the delivery of legal services. 

A successful career in private practice generally culminates in promotion to partnership or a directorship with the firm.

The experience gained in private practice can also serve as a valuable stepping-stone to a career in-house, at the Bar or in a range of senior commercial, strategic and management roles.

Alumni Story

Law FirmsLyndon Goddard (BInSt/LLB (Hons) ’13)
I’m currently a law graduate at King & Wood Mallesons, and started in February 2016.

What does a typical day in the job involve for you? I’m currently rotating through the M&A practice group, and so a lot of my work relates to commercial contracts and corporate governance. My tasks might include preparing transaction documents, reviewing company policies, conducting legal research or verifying the compliance of a proposed agreement with relevant legislation. Particularly since I did not have a background in corporate issues, it has been a great learning experience for me so far. Additionally, as part of the KWM graduate program, I am attending training sessions and completing my PLT coursework.

What route did you undertake to get this role? I did a clerkship at KWM in 2013, and then worked for two years as the tipstaff for Justice Emmett on the NSW Court of Appeal in 2014 and 2015, before returning to the firm this year. More generally, while at UNSW, I participated in a range of extra-curricular activities, such as mooting (in various forms, including Jessup), UNSW Law Journal, Model UN, UNSW LawSoc administration, the Gilbert+Tobin Centre internship, and research assistant work.

How do you think your UNSW Law degree has equipped you for your role? I think my UNSW Law degree equipped me with both technical competence and an ability to apply the law to non-textbook situations. I’ve also particularly benefited from the legal research skills I learned via the mooting competitions.

What advice would you give to UNSW Law students who are hoping to pursue your chosen career path? If you want to work in a large corporate law firm, academic performance is very important. Overall, the best advice I can give is to do as well as you can in the subjects that interest you – not subjects that you have chosen for their perceived career merit or, even worse, subjects that you think will provide an easy path to high marks. Having a selection of extra-curricular activities to your name helps too.