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Opinion Piece – opportunities for law graduates in Sydney’s west

Published on August 19, 2015 by Scott Dougall

You can read the article in the ‘Sapere Aude’ published by Dare to Know website here.

Every now and then another TV series based in a high-end law firm comes along complete with the corner window office, glass walls, expensive art and a cast replete in tailored suits and thousand dollar shoes, lunching with the clients in 5 star restaurants as they fine tune settlements in multi million dollar deals.

And on the surface, what’s not to like?

From ‘LA Law’ to the current favourite ‘Suits’ for the uninitiated, life at a Top End of Town law firm is something akin to reality program of the rich and famous.

And indeed the allure of the Big End Firms extends well beyond the Hollywood Hills, with local industry mystique feeding the desire of many a law graduate.

For as long as I can remember the prospect of getting entry into a Top Tier firm has held the same gravitational pull for many graduates as the Earth is drawn to the Sun.

Yet the simple laws of supply and demand dictate that very few will successfully enter that orbit.

For all my years as a lawyer, and once like you a hungry graduate seeking my first clerkship, the appeal of the big firms in the heart ofSydney’s business district has always run strong.

But as a lawyer who has built a successful and stimulating career in Sydney’s West, I’d like to prosecute the case that in fact the career that delivers real rewards may not necessarily be found in the big end of town.

More importantly, the opportunities on offer in Sydney’s West may mean you as a young graduate have a more active legal career, earlier than your peers.

The reality is that the market for law graduates is overwhelmingly crowded and there are more lawyers than there are opportunities for them. In my years of practice, it has never been as bad as it is today.

That means the already fierce competition for clerkships and internships in order to undertake PLT is even more ferocious.

Sydney’s West has the advantage of having perhaps one of the highest concentrations of law firms in the state, let alone the country.

From large players with local offices, such as Carroll & O’Dea, through to the sole practitioner, there are many firms and these are only continuing to grow.

That means the opportunities for young graduates are here, but you have to go after those opportunities and grab them with both hands.

My advice to any young graduate seeking an internship or PLT placement is to stand out from the crowd and Sydney’s West is the place you can do that.

And what I mean is make a name for yourself, early, when your peers in the big CBD firms are still undertaking research for the senior partner.

Because firms in Sydney’s West are smaller, that means you are more likely to be doing more senior work sooner because you’ll need to take on board greater responsibilities early.

That includes handling client matters, going to court and working more closely with senior lawyers from whom you can learn and refine your skills and knowledge.

This sort of early engagement means the opportunity to showcase your communication skills and this is one of the most important things to work on.

Effective communication and networking skills are vital to success and they are what I look at in determining who is best suited to a clerkship or internship at our firm.

Western Sydney is a community and being able to establish networks quickly, build them and nurture them, is critical to success in creating a strong practice and local reputation.

All of this is possible in Western Sydney.

This area has provided me, and I hope will continue for decades to come, with an incredibly rewarding and stimulating career in law and to University of Western Sydney Graduates, I would highly recommend looking local when considering your next steps.

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