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Look beyond private practice in 2018

Look beyond private practice in 2018

By Karin Derkley



Lawyers should look beyond private practice and towards the public sector as a career entry point, says the head of legal at recruitment company Hays, Veronica Walter.

Ms Walter says the latest Hays Jobs Report shows ongoing strong demand for government lawyers, particularly those well-versed in legal policy and specialists in Freedom of Information legislation.

"Rather than focusing purely on private practice, lawyers should look at entry level opportunities in the public sector as a wonderful way for them to get exposure to the legal industry. That can open up real doors for them - either as an interim role whilst applying for private practice positions, or as a longer term career.”

Legal policy skills will always be in demand, Ms Walter says. "The public sector and non government organisations are always looking for people who have got experience in policy, administration law and an understanding of legislation.

"There are always changes to policy, and every time there's a change in government you will see a demand for people with that strong policy experience."

With two elections on the horizon, the federal and state government will be rushing to get certain pieces of work completed, she points out.

Those seeking to transition out of private practice into policy law should also look for contract opportunities within the public sector, she says. "You may not find the perfect role initially - but a contract opportunity in a commercial capacity within government will get your foot in the door and give you exposure into policy work."

Changes to the Freedom of Information Act in Victoria last year have led to an increased need for contract staff to oversee those changes, Mr Walter points out. "There is a lack of skilled people who have an indepth understanding of the legislation and an understanding of what can and can’t be disclosed," she says.

Areas of high demand in private practice are in property and construction law, fuelled by Victoria's ongoing infrastructure boom, and in family law, where vacancies are constantly created by staff progressing up through to larger firms in the sector.

With the mergers of several mid and top tier firms, partners who can bring their own existing practice to a firm are much sought after, Ms Walter says.

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