Practice Skills

7 real-life lessons you didn’t learn in law school

Stepping into the real world of law is a daunting prospect. While completing a Bachelor of Laws you get a pretty good sense of what you’re in for. Late nights, high stakes and tight deadlines, anyone? 

With that said… There are some lessons you just don’t learn until you’re out there in the field. And legal graduates often don’t see them coming.


Luckily, we have the inside scoop. Here are 7 real-life legal lessons you won’t learn in law school – and our insider tips on CPD courses that will get you up to speed.


1. Research is a skill unto itself

Researching case law and finding appropriate legislation is a lot harder than most anticipate. And knowing where to start can seem like finding that elusive needle in a haystack.


During your Bachelor of Laws, your professors would have conveniently handed you a reading guide and a summary of cases when they dished out your assignments. Unfortunately, in the commercial world, your boss will do no such thing.


There will be no neat summary of relevant legislation to refer to when you set out on your own. That means you need to take research into your own hands.


2. Clients, uh… sometimes get ahead of themselves

What do doctors and lawyers have in common?


Clients that come into their office with a prognosis… from Google.


You’ve likely already had at least one client who has boldly (and wrongly) told you what area of the law relates to their case – and how they’re going to win.


From clients who can’t discern fact from fiction to those getting excited over legislation from another jurisdiction, you’ll often be faced with information overload. 


And it’s rarely quick or easy to uncover that one source of truth.


3. Legitimate legal resource platforms are fundamental

When it comes to finding that all-important source of truth, you should only be referring to legitimate legal resources – such as Ford and Austin & Ramsay (sorry, Google).


These types of resources should be your go-to for referencing legislation. Why? Because they’re updated regularly, so you’ll never be caught out giving ‘old’ advice.


It’s unlikely you were told this during your law degree – nor taught how to use these platforms. Still, a solid knowledge of how to use them is vital to your everyday work.


4. Real-life cases are tangled and messy


The nature of university assignments means you’re only homing in on one specific issue in a case. Reality is a little more nuanced.

Say you have a client who comes to you for advice on a contract. You not only need to understand the contract itself, but also any implications that might arise from signing it.


A good lawyer needs to know how to look at the issue at hand and predict the domino effect that may follow.


5. Deadlines are tight – and they only get tighter


When you were studying, you were typically given several weeks to complete an assignment. But in a firm, you are likely to have much tighter deadlines, forcing you to juggle many urgent demands at once.


This means you’ll need to learn how to research and draft advice a lot faster – and under a lot more pressure – than you’re used to. 


6. Drafting is harder than it looks


The ability to draft documents quickly and accurately is vital to your success as a lawyer.


It’s also one of the most daunting areas for new legal professionals – and it’s not something many of us learned how to do at uni.


Perhaps writing isn’t your strong suit and you don’t know where to begin. Or perhaps you may be struggling to keep your documents concise and easy to read.


Wherever your challenges lie, the ability to draft documents quickly and accurately is vital to your success as a lawyer.


7. All that legal jargon you’ve picked up? Your clients might not get it

During your law degree, you had to get up to speed with all the technical terminology quickly – and use it consistently.


But when it comes to communicating with clients in the real world, you need to be able to meet them where they are.


And that means learning how to communicate in plain, simple English.


Get more practical skills under your belt

Two major issues new lawyers face are drafting and presenting. 


By mastering these two areas, you’ll be able to transition into the commercial world a lot more seamlessly – while giving yourself a competitive edge against other early-career lawyers. 


The course Drafting skills: Affidavit Evidence, teaches you the knowledge, insights and a framework for preparing affidavits, including interviewing clients and recording statements.


Meanwhile, the The fundamentals of oral advocacy will teach you the art of how to make a persuasive argument. You’ll learn how to combine analysis, research, planning, writing and team-work to effectively deliver and advocate your client’s case.  


This information has been brought to you by…

Thanks to The College of Law lecturers Simone Dixon and Natalie Wieland for their insights into the struggles new lawyers face when entering the workforce.