In Australia, law graduates are required to either complete a supervised workplace training program (generally with a law firm or an in-house legal department), or a practical legal training program offered by an accredited educational institution in order to become admitted to practise law, i.e. It’s the next major step after graduation to qualify as a lawyer. Supervised workplace trainees are paid a graduate salary, whilst practical legal training trainees pay around $10,000.00 in course fees, though there are also hybrid arrangements. Once admitted, new lawyers, particularly those who completed a practical legal training program and therefore may not have accumulated significant experience with a potential employer, face the challenge of seeking supervised employment. A newly admitted lawyer must be supervised for two years as a condition of their restricted practising certificate.
It is well-known that there is an oversupply of law graduates and new lawyers in metropolitan Australia, significantly increasing the competition when it comes to supervised workplace training programs and subsequently, first-year positions. It has been estimated that Australia is producing 12,000 law graduates a year, however there are only 60,000 working lawyers in the country. Of course, this includes students studying double degrees and post graduate degrees etc. who may not necessarily have ambitions to pursue careers as lawyers; however the number still leaves me incredulous.
I experienced this competitive environment myself during practical legal training in 2013; the proportion of trainees that had secured legal roles was definitely outweighed by the proportion that hadn’t. It is indeed a catch 22. Most positions advertised sought a lawyer with 2-3 years post admission experience yet graduates couldn’t get their foot in the door to rack up the same. Even now at the current firm that I work at, I was told that there were over 300 applicants for 1 supervised workplace training position. First year lawyer positions are even more of a rarity. Clearly, it is a buyer’s market and the firms have all the bargaining power when it comes to having graduates and new lawyers jumping through hoops and being able to select those who are perceived as being the cream of the crop.
A controversial ‘solution’
With this in mind environment in mind, I was amused however not surprised when I came across this article about a new Adelaide based firm, Adlawgroup, proposing to charge newly admitted lawyers $22,000.00 for a two-year “employment and mentoring program“. (more…)