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Things I now know after working in the legal industry

After graduating from The University of Law, I was armed with an extensive knowledge of bail, battery and R v Brown. I strolled out of the university doors with my trusty White Books in hand, ready to take on the world of law. Even my dad’s frivolous debates were no match for my newly acquired skills of persuasion and legal nous. However, quite predictably, I came to realise that studying law does not fully prepare you for life in the legal arena. As such, I have decided to offer you all a head start by giving you an insight into “Things I now know after working in the legal industry”.

1. It’s more than just the law. Typically, while studying law, you are taught about statute and case law, and how these can be applied to the facts of a case. You may be forgiven for thinking that working in the legal industry would be a replica of this. But this is not always the case. When first joining a law firm, much of your work will relate to the legal administration of a case. This can involve creating court bundles, searching for experts, filing documents, planning legal applications, studying the procedural rules, among many other things. Your administrative skills will be severely tested.

2. Litigation can be a battleground. Little is discussed about the tactics surrounding legal disputes during your studies. In truth, a case can be riddled with manoeuvres and pitfalls that you must be aware of when managing a case. You may have to question: Does disclosing evidence give the other side ammunition in another conceivable case? What retaliation should you expect if you commence proceedings in a different jurisdiction? How do you manage the client’s budget against the benefits of a legal application? Understanding these strategies comes with time and experience.

3. Be confident in your confidentiality. Working in a law firm means you’ll have access to a lot of confidential information. Like me, you may envisage that a company’s sensitive materials relate to an exciting, James Bond-esque, national secret. In truth, much of the confidential information in legal disputes concerns business plans and projected finances that mean little to someone not connected to that industry. Nevertheless, confidentiality is a responsibility that is vital, and if not respected, can be extremely damaging to your career.

4. Forget the adequate, target the remarkable. Experience in the legal industry will give you the ability to be clinically decisive. I quickly realised that in legal arguments, quality beats quantity. Observing some of the best advocacy and drafting in the country, I have recognised that you’re better off making one great argument than five mediocre ones. This appreciation allows you to become direct and clear. This is a useful tip for anyone with mooting competitions on the horizon.

5. Remember who you work for. A legal practitioner can often have a complex relationship with their client. Managing a case requires constant communication and verification with your client. If this communication is poor, it can lead to delayed filings and, consequently, cost penalties.

I hope this has given you all a better understanding of what life is like in the legal industry. If you take these points on board, you should be able to hit the ground running when you start your career in law.


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