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Full-time work + study = law career success

Flexible study options and real-world experience played a key role in Jordana Cawood’s law career success.

The ability to both study and work full-time was a key factor behind Jordana Cawood’s decision to study law and commerce at Deakin.

Now a solicitor specialising in property law, Jordana completed a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in 2015 and says that while Deakin’s reputation and location matched her study needs, the university’s flexible online learning was a big drawcard.

‘I knew that while studying law I also needed experience so I decided that working full-time in the legal field, whether in a volunteer or paid capacity, would increase my knowledge and my chances of securing a post-graduation job. Deakin’s online learning allowed me to work and complete my degree at the same time giving me the best of both worlds.’

Jordana was an on-campus student for the first two years of her double degree which she says enabled her to ‘get into the swing of university life’ and make friends.

For the following three years of her studies she switched to Deakin’s Cloud Campus, worked full time, and took advantage of the university’s flexible course delivery.

‘The ability to change between on-campus and online studies, depending on my needs and other commitments, was invaluable. I never felt disadvantaged. My lecturers were always responsive online and there was a great online community with other students so I didn’t miss out on the “on campus” experience,’ she says. 

Jordana also appreciated having the option of Deakin’s trimester system and studying over summer. 

‘If I knew I had a quiet summer coming up, I was able to decrease my subject load slightly in semester two and pick up a subject in semester three,’ she explains.

As part of her law studies, Jordana volunteered at a local community legal centre, worked in a private law firm and also completed a work placement unit.

‘Real -life experience is very important in the field of law.  It allows you to see how the law is applied in real-world scenarios.  I was also able to experience the day-to-day tasks that aren’t taught at university such as how to interact with clients, attending court, time recording and general office duties,’ she says. 

Now three years into her law career, she is thoroughly enjoying a role which sees her working with large-scale property clients while also learning how to successfully manage the work-life juggle.

‘Trying to switch off work mode for me can be a problem – I have to remember that there will always be work so you can’t stay at the office until all of the work is completed because that will never happen.  Prioritising the work and ensuring I have work-life balance minimises the challenges,’ she reflects.

She is thankful that all the firms she’s worked with so far have robust policies to minimise the potential of “burn-out” and adds there is a growing and diverse range of career options for law graduates.

‘I think the notion of obtaining a law degree and working as a lawyer at a firm is changing – there are now so many more roles for people with law degrees then the standard ‘lawyer’ role.’ 

Her advice for current law students is to gain as much hands-on legal experience as possible.

‘Experience, experience, experience is the key.  I learnt so much and made some really great connections with lawyers who became role models for me.  Don’t be afraid to cold call law firms and community legal centres – any experience is good experience.  Also take advantage of everything that Deakin has to offer – whether it’s online learning, clubs or events – you never know which connections may benefit your future career.’

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