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The pathway to graduate law success

Building on his Deakin learning, networks, and practical experience, James Royce has landed a highly sought-after graduate law role.

When it comes to securing a graduate law role, James Royce’s key piece of advice is to start building a portfolio of experience and networks as early as possible in your degree.

Recently graduating from a combined Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws degree, James has secured a graduate law position with leading international law firm Allens and is set to commence the role in early 2022.

Vis Moot experience invaluable

He says that from the start of his Deakin studies, he began building networks and experience that included both a study intensive in London and participating in Deakin’s 2019 Vis Moot team.

‘I learnt an incredible amount through the Vis Moot and made connections pivotal in my graduate applications. The technical skills I gained also gave me great confidence when applying to, and clerking with, firms. By far it was my most valuable university experience and probably the greatest influence in me securing a graduate position.’

Applications and clerkships

Around his studies, James has been working with a small Melbourne-based commercial law firm while continuing to focus on preparing for graduate applications.

‘I shortlisted some of the larger firms’ early access programs – such as the Allens Dive-In Program – which gave me a clear advantage when then writing clerkship applications. I was also able to make meaningful connections which can be essential when applying for more competitive clerkship roles,’ he says.

In mid-2021, he secured a short-term clerkship with Allens where he says he relied on his Deakin learning. 

‘Deakin Law School provides a really good balance of research and fact-based assessment which prepared me well for the clerkship. As a clerk, it’s essential to be able to provide definitive memo on all resources available (research) and present this concisely and effectively. You also need to be able to assess facts and identify pertinent issues which are key skills in assignments.’

As part of his graduate role, James will undertake practical training (through the University of New South Wales) in tandem with the firm’s in-house training.

‘This provides designated study leave and support and enables “admission to practice” by mid-year in the first graduate year. The benefit is that it’s designed to fit around workflows and allow for early admission,’ he explains.

Start early, choose broadly

While embedding experience into a degree provides a clear advantage in career success, James cautions against waiting for strictly legal-focused opportunities. 

‘Often that can be too late. You need to be involved in student societies, mentor programs and committees that build both technical and soft skills that feed into applications for legal-based roles. Saying “yes” to more things early in your degree also allows the luxury of being more selective in later years. You don’t want to be joining societies, mentoring, studying, working, and writing clerkship applications all in your penultimate year,’ he says.

Make connections and don’t be afraid to ask for advice

He also advocates the value of developing professional networks and connections.

‘It may feel awkward to message someone on Linkedin or ask for a coffee catch up but it’s invaluable. Displaying genuine interest and a passion to broaden your experience goes a long way. Deakin’s alumni are also an excellent resource – our past students have great experience and achievements and, in my experience, are incredibly generous with their time.’ 

Share the journey 

Finally, James says it’s crucial to remember that the graduate application process is marathon rather than a sprint.

‘Invest time in your networks and in the competitive process of applying for graduate positions, be prepared to share. Peer collaboration and support is vital through what can be a difficult process. Throughout my studies, I benefitted immensely from the honest and considered feedback from my friends – whether that about applications or deciding between opportunities. At the end of the day, we share in the collective success of our peers.’

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