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How law schools can better prepare future young lawyers

How law schools can better prepare future young lawyers

By Edward Cormie


Law school doesn’t always prepare future lawyers for the struggles of their first year in private practice. In my first year as a lawyer, I learnt that the practice of law is messy. The facts were never as straightforward as they were in law school, the clients were never as cooperative as they were in mock client meetings, and my first appearance in court went nothing like moot court. It was an important lesson. Law school taught me the legal theory required for basic legal practice but, in my opinion, did not equip me for the actual practice of law. It is not my contention that law schools can entirely prepare students for practice. Nor should it be the sole goal of law schools to do so. Law students and new lawyers should also take responsibility for ensuring that they develop the necessary skills and obtain suitable experience in preparation for practice. However, law schools and the profession generally can do more to prepare new lawyers for practice. Based on his own experience, Jason Harkess, barrister, lecturer and chief examiner of the Victorian Bar entrance exam, has identified a number of common challenges new lawyers in private practice face, including from being given little guidance or supervision on files, learning how to prioritise an unpredictable workload, learning how to advocate in court and dealing with a myriad of interpersonal relationships, including colleagues, clients and more senior opponents.

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