PRIVATE practice is becoming a harder nut to crack.
In a job market flooded with highly qualified lawyers fighting tooth and nail for the same scarce roles, one Brisbane-based professional says it's time to start thinking laterally before looking for new work.
Cullens Principal Blake Knowles (pictured) believes the private sector is a different beast to the one it was 15 years ago, with partnership roles tougher to secure, career paths less flexible and graduate jobs harder to come by.
Knowles says that breaking into or moving within the industry isn't just determined by a strong list of credentials anymore, and instead is about gaining practical experience to win potential employers a decent pay-day.
"From what I see, the economy is sluggish and there's not a lot of firms putting on new staff," says Knowles.
"However if you can go out and do something that will give you experience that an employer can use straight away to make money, then you will be in a much better position than fighting against hundreds of other competitors."
The author of From Government to Private Pratice: Tips Based on my Personal Experience says that brandishing a law degree and hoping for instant employment may not be the best way to go about finding a calling in the current job market.
Having launched his own career through IP Australia in Canberra, Knowles says he was in a much better position to avoid crippling competition while pursuing a private role interstate.
Knowles highly recommends the government track for anybody who isn't suited to private practice, because according to him there are always gaps for the legally trained to fill in the public service.
"There is a real need in government for people who are analytical thinkers, people who are efficient and people who know how to work hard, so I think there's a lot of different opportunities there for lawyers," says Knowles.
"If you don't necessarily enjoy private sector work, look at government roles."
On the flip side those who do find success in firms have to deal with a new set of challenges, namely those associated with a lack of work satisfaction.
Shortly after reaching partnership status with Cullens, Knowles admits he had a rough time finding enjoyment in his work.
Fortunately, he found a way to reignite the passion and now passes on the wisdom to others who might also be struggling to keep the flame alive.
"I had a period of about six months just after I became partner where I didn't like what I was doing; I wasn't happy with my work," says Knowles.
"Then I found a contested matter where I was essentially on the side of the 'good guy' in the dispute, which made the day far more interesting.
"Once you find one good case that you're really interested in and have some sort of emotional investment in, I think that can definitely rekindle your love for the job."
To read Knowles' full article on the transition from government work into private practice, click here.
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