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Maximise your employability in law

Maximise your employability in law

By Sach Fernando

Education Occupations Young Persons 


It was my penultimate year of law school and I had completed clerkships at three major law firms – Allens, Lander and Rogers and Middletons (now K&L Gates).

I was certain that I would secure a traineeship at at least one of these firms, however, to my horror, I was rejected by all three. This experience was disappointing and disheartening, and made me question whether I had what it takes to be a lawyer. Perhaps I just wasn’t good enough for the law.

Ultimately I secured a traineeship at a boutique personal injury law practice in Oakleigh. The benefit of working for a smaller practice was receiving a significant level of autonomy and responsibility.

In 2011 the firm had an event to celebrate the opening of its new office. Several lawyers from the personal injury industry attended including a special counsel from Minter Ellison. I connected with him and ended up giving him a tour of the firm. As we parted ways we did the normal exchange of business cards. We kept in touch and caught up from time to time.

The following year I was approached by Minter Ellison to join its insurance and corporate risk department. I was delighted to accept the role however my excitement was short lived. After a brief insight into the world of defendant lawyers, I came to the realisation that this work wasn’t for me, and returned back to my old firm.

As I became a more experienced practitioner I got involved in recruitment and mentoring. I had several junior lawyers and support staff as direct reports. I was also engaged in business and development events including speaking at various forums involving medical professionals. I often discussed the strategic direction that the firm was heading in with the partners so that I could identify opportunities for growth and ways in which the firm could generate new clients. Having completed five years post-admission I also decided to undergo the LIV accreditation course and became an accredited specialist in personal injury law.

Earlier this year I established my own law firm, Maxiom Injury Lawyers, a specialist personal injury practice. In my previous role I acquired not just technical expertise but also developed skills in networking, business development and management – attributes which gave me the confidence to start out on my own. These skills are equally valuable when applying for a new job or a promotion.

While technical proficiency is a must, it is equally crucial to have strong skills in communication, networking and business development. Law firms are also businesses and they seek to employ talented staff who can enhance the firm’s reputation and generate business.

My tips for law graduates and new lawyers in the legal profession are:

1. Network – every lawyer must be capable of networking. Make a genuine effort to get to know the other party, connect with them and exchange contact details. You never know when your paths will cross again.

2. Be technically proficient in your practice area and have examples to demonstrate your competence. Whether you are applying for a new job or going for a promotion, identify cases in which you have excelled.

3. Look at the strategic direction of the firm. Find out where your firm is investing most of its resources, and then identify ways in which you can contribute to this.

4. Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. This could be presenting at a client event, mentoring a trainee or junior lawyer or even taking on non-legal tasks associated with business growth.

5. Have other interests – travel, keep fit and do something that interests you outside the law. Employers value technical competence, however they are equally concerned about whether you are a good cultural fit for the firm.

The process of securing employment in law can be frustrating and disheartening. Always be persistent, and remember that there is a job for you in the legal industry. Never give up.


Sach Fernando is principal at Maxiom Injury Lawyers, and a LIV accredited specialist in personal injury law. He is also a member of the LIV Young Lawyers.

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