With the increasing globalisation of Australian law firms (and just about everything else for that matter) it’s imperative new law graduates and those seeking work do all they can to raise themselves above the competition.
Make no mistake; competition is indeed fierce in the legal field. But, you no doubt already know that if you are looking for full-time, paid work in law.
In December 2014, Graduate Careers Australia ‘GradStats Report’ highlighted that new graduates were entering the toughest job market in over 2 decades.
The report high-lighted that one quarter of graduates who searched for a full time job still couldn’t find one within 4 months of receiving their graduation parchment. This number sat at 21.5% in 2013.
“I think that it is well established in the current discourse that there is an oversupply of graduates; however, I believe there are still other contributing factors for the data shown in this report. It is well accepted that law firms, for example, have almost halved their graduate intake since 2008”, says Marie Iskander, Vice President of the Australian law Students Association.
As globalisation continues to take hold David Buckley, Partner at Taylor Root Lawyers believes one way legal practitioners can enhance their appeal is by learning a foreign language. He points out that it is incredibly hard to find lawyers who have the required language skills (including fluent speaking, as well as reading and writing to a business level) to work in mainland China and Hong Kong.
“Any graduate who wants to get ahead and have a competitive advantage should be thinking about learning [a foreign language]. A graduate who comes out of uni who has a second language may be a better prospect for an employer. Although there are more people every year who have Chinese language skills it is still very difficult to find people who can speak [Mandarin]. It is very rare that you will find an Anglo-Australian who studied and is then fluent and can read and write an Asian language. It's almost always the case that it is due to ethnicity and family connections”, said Mr Buckley.
The 2011 Census supports Mr Buckley’s assertions. It found that only 23.2% of Australian’s speak a second language at home!
Former Federal Minister Andrew Thompson (who joined law firm Lander & Rogers earlier this year) raises an important consideration. “Foreign language skills can certainly be helpful … especially if a firm's business and client base extend outside of the country in which they are located.“
So if you are thinking about learning a second language to enhance your employment prospects then think about:
Where the law firm you want to work is doing business.
Broaden your search and figure out where the majority, or at least the biggest Australian law firms are doing most of their business internationally
Identify upcoming ‘hotspots’ for firms looking to grow internationally.
Thinking about these things will lead you to other considerations and give you an idea which language may be most suitable to gain a law job in Australia.