Career pathways | Law

Career pathways

When many people think of a career in law they see themselves as barristers in a courtroom before a judge. In reality, the legal profession is a lot broader and more diverse than what you might have seen on television. Although many people who obtain a law degree do so to become barristers and solicitors, there are a multitude of opportunities in different fields, organisations and specialities for law graduates. 

So what career pathways are there for a UNSW Law graduate?

The Bar

Barristers are lawyers that advocate for clients in the courtroom. After being briefed by the solicitor representing the person or organisation, a barrister will evaluate the case, engage in negotiations and take the stand in a court or tribunal. They may also provide specialist legal advice, conduct research, interview witnesses and act as mediators, arbitrators, referees or conciliators.

As it is important for barristers to remain impartial they operate independently as sole traders. This is why solicitors usually spend time in a private firm building contacts and experience before applying to the NSW Bar Association.

Law firms

This is seen as the typical career pathway for law graduates, as working in a law firm can expose you to different areas of practice, experienced lawyers and partners and a variety of clients. Solicitors may chose to work in a general practice or a large firm which specialises in a certain field such as environmental or family law.

In-house counsel

Most large organisations have a dedicated legal department to advise them on commercial matters and aid decision making, with litigation usually outsourced to a law firm. As legal advice is so critical to the success of a business, in-house lawyers can often be found in senior management positions. In-house roles can be found in a variety of sectors from banks and financial institutions to media and telecommunications companies.

Community legal services

Community legal centres offer lawyers with a strong sense of social justice a way to help the socially and economically disadvantaged in their local area. UNSW Law is home to the Kingsford Legal Centre, which offers free legal assistance to those who can’t afford a private solicitor on matters such as unfair dismissal, immigration, rental disputes, consumer rights, family conflict and more.

Government lawyers

Lawyers in federal or state government operate similarly to in-house counsel, providing legal assistance to different bodies and departments. You may be involved in formulating policies, advising politicians, prosecuting criminals, participating in royal commissions and inquiries, writing submissions on reform or many other tasks depending on the operations of the department you work in.

Not-for-profit lawyers

There are a range of opportunities to make a difference in the not-for -profit sector, either helping the disadvantaged directly by providing free legal assistance to the community, advocating for social justice reforms or on behalf of refugees, or  assisting in the operations of a charity organisation from a legal standpoint.

Alternative careers might also include:

  • Judge
  • Academic
  • Criminologist
  • Lobbyist
  • Politician
  • Public Relations
  • Journalist
  • Diplomat
  • Business Analyst
  • Dispute Resolution