November 22, 2016

Career Advice on Being a Lawyer



Thank you for your message enquiring about becoming a lawyer. I have worked in courts and practiced law for 20 years and I hope the following advice and observations are helpful.

My advice to you: if you have the desire to make a difference in the world/community, then pursuing a career as a lawyer is a good choice.

A law degree is a good holistic degree and, if anything, can lead to a whole range of opportunities and a great career in either: business, civil service, academia, law enforcement and politics.

Whatever reason you choose, having a law degree will give you a lifetime of respect for your intelligence and your determination.

To successfully study law, it helps to have an interest in reading (lots of it in law), history and politics (parliament/congress) where most of our laws derive and the policy reasoning behind its implementation.

Why history? If you understand how something started and the reason why it happened, and why something needs to be done about it, then you ‘re more likely to understand the need for a law to regulate a specified activity or behavior.

At the completion of the law degree; most people take the qualification and choose not to practice. However, if you choose to practice then there are some things you need to consider:

Be good at problem solving and weigh up available options for your client to consider pursuing. We take instructions from our clients on the course to pursue. But 9 times out of 10 they are adopting an option that you provided them with; so consider your advice thoroughly.

Develop your communication skills. Above all else, to be good in the practice of the law; you need to be able to communicate with your clients (who will come from all walks of life and education levels).

They have usually come to you upset, anxious or concerned. A client who walks through your door has a problem they want your advice on. Essentially, they want you, as their lawyer, to resolve this problem or conflict. And for you to give them peace of mind that something can be done to defend or defeat the problem.

It is pointless being brilliant in the law, if you cannot communicate your advice to everyday (lay) people (a common problem in the industry).

In my experience there are two types of lawyers:

The first kind (majority) are an administrative-type of person who love rules- they are usually the ones who quickly reach for the rulebook when you’re playing a card or board game e.g Monopoly- Scrabble- Uno- Trivial Pursuit etc. They take pride in saying they’re right and you’re wrong and they have the support of the rulebook to back them up. I always found this dry and boring and this was not me- it’s just a game for goodness sake.

The second kind (I’m a part of) are those who love the concept of justice- there is a universal common or moral standard of right and wrong. In my life, I have usually found this to be true.

It is based upon the concept of invigorating moral outrage at a grievous wrong inflicted on an innocent person- a weak or vulnerable person that was unfairly hurt or taken advantage of.

I believe people are inherently strong and resilient and will endure a lot if there’s a reason for it. But people won’t stand for one second an injustice inflicted upon an innocent person. And will often fight or demand that something be done to correct this grievous offence, crime or unconscionable behavior.

We are usually very passionate and will see a battle through to the end. We get satisfaction from a good result but will be content with giving our opponent a ‘bloody nose;’ knowing the battle is merely on hiatus until next time we meet.

I was involved with a famous case in Australia known as the Malu Sara Tragedy (in mid October of 2005, five people died in a tragic but needless boating accident. The police knew of their repeated Mayday calls- knew where they were on radar but refused to save them– they slowly drowned shortly afterward). After two years of court battles and negotiations we received a successful outcome; due to our zealous commitment to our clients (passion and energy are necessary fuels when engaging an opposing side – especially one with near unlimited resources as state and federal governments have at their disposal). The Big Name admin lawyers (Maurice & Blackburn) we took over from, had settled for much less than what we fought for and later won). Police Responses and Rescues in the region are now taken very seriously and responded to appropriately.

Having said all this, the practice of the law is essentially administrative so, whether you’re either one of the two types; a good admin support team is absolutely necessary. And more commonly, on an almost daily basis, doing something properly and giving peace of mind so that your client’s wills, conveyancing or contracts are solid and will withstand challenge; can be just as satisfying.

Please know it is a collaborative industry. You will often consult colleagues or mentors in the industry for their advice; No one knows it all – (some elements of the law take many years to understand: one judge famously remarked that it took him 20 years to understand the Hearsay Rule).

I have always been a bit of a loner with lifelong aims of independence and self-reliance, so this was a bit of a culture shock for me. Some parts of legal practice are like the popular TV shows (what people are capable of will never cease to amaze me). And other parts, like the rightness of your client’s cause, isn’t one of them.

Right does not always win – justice does not always prevail- courts are not always blind to prejudices. It takes thorough preparation, effort and determination to see it all the way through; that will increase your chances of victory i.e. hard work.

Do all this when you commit to your client, and I promise: you will have a rewarding legal career.

I hope this was helpful. And if you have any further queries or simply want to say hello; please don’t hesitate to write me again.

Good luck with everything.

Take Care.

Best Regards


All Rights Reserved Jason A Briggs Copyright ©2016


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