Bond University


Despite a burgeoning of law schools in Australia in the last 15 years, there has been very little exploration of the expectations and aspirations of students commencing a law degree in Australia. By contrast, a number of studies on features of professional life for practising lawyers are emerging. In particular, recent studies have shown high levels of stress, anxiety and depression among practising lawyers. In addition, there is evidence of high levels of attrition of women from private legal practice in the first few years following admission and a significant under-representation of women in the senior levels of the profession. Universities and their law schools have not traditionally focused on preparing students for the realities of the legal workplace, concentrating instead on technical legal knowledge and practical legal skills. We recently set out to ask commencing (that is, newly enrolled) students in their first few weeks of study what they thought legal practice would be like, and what sort of career and lifestyle they would have. In this paper, we set out the context for the 2009 study into first-year students’ career expectations and analyse some of the key findings.