Each year many young people decide to study to become lawyers. There is no doubt that a career in law can be rewarding and interesting but it is also very hard work, especially in the beginning, and many people go into this field with unrealistic expectations.
Although law has a reputation for being a lucrative profession, when all the years of training, long hours and accumulated HECS debts are taken into consideration, a career in law may not be as financially attractive as many would think. Anybody who is considering a career in law, or who has the view that lawyers make a lot of money for very little effort should have a solid understanding of not just the benefits, but the reality of training and establishing yourself as a lawyer.
Here are some common misconceptions about lawyers and the legal profession, along with a more realistic view of what training and establishing yourself as a criminal defence lawyer actually involves.
Graduate lawyers earn a huge salary compared to other professions
The starting salary for a lawyer is lower than many people think. The starting salary for a new graduate is around $40,000 and as many law graduates have significant HECS debt, this must also be factored into the overall equation.
Although they can expect to earn a significantly higher amount once they are experienced and have worked their way up in their career, in the beginning, new lawyers can’t expect to earn much more than other professionals and their starting salary is well below that of psychologists who average $51,000 as graduates, and primary school teachers who start out at around $49,000 per year.
It’s easy to become a lawyer
Qualifying as a lawyer takes a considerable amount of time and hard work. To be admitted into a law degree requires high HSC results. Studying law is stressful and demanding and once you have graduated you will still need to undergo a practical legal training (PLT) course if you want to be admitted as a practising lawyer.
Generally law students work or study for extremely long hours to meet the requirements of their course. Many law students also work part time to support themselves financially which adds significantly to the overall pressure and level of difficulty involved in becoming fully qualified.
Law is easy work
Working as a lawyer, especially in the criminal defence field, is not as easy as many people assume. The number of hours per week worked by lawyers is well over the national average of 33, with an average working day of 10-12 hours. As graduates, many young lawyers are expected to work around 60 hours a week.
As well as the long working hours, working in criminal law can be extremely stressful and demanding. Criminal lawyers are often on call around the clock and have to deal with urgent situations at extremely short notice. Dealing with clients who are in extremely stressful situations can be demanding in itself, and often lawyers need to take on a wide range of different roles as they are in close contact with not only defendants but their families, other professionals, magistrates and police officers. Much of the advocacy work that criminal defence lawyers do is extremely thankless and they are often on the receiving end of hostility and pressure from a number of different directions.
Anybody who considers being a lawyer an easy profession may be surprised at the actual reality, especially in the beginning. To be successful as a lawyer requires a high level of commitment and dedication not to mention long hours and hard work.