3 Things Law Students Wish They Knew Before School

As the school year approaches, many students all around the world will be attending their very first law school classes. Understandably, many of them are feeling a mixed bag of emotions as they venture into what many deem a difficult scholastic career. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who’ve done it before and have been able to share their experiences in law school with others and provide information on a few of the things that they wished they had known beforehand. 

Here are three things you should know about law school before you step into the first classroom.

Avoid Isolation and Make Friends!

Perhaps the most common misconception of law school is that it is a cut-throat environment where everyone is in constant competition with each other. Sure, there will be some who would rather be on their own, but a majority of the people you meet want to be your friend. Making friends in law school is incredibly important. This is because friends can not only serve as people to study with but someone to lean on when things get tough, and trust me, they will get tough. If you have no problem making friends, consider looking for people who might be a little shy, you could make a world of difference in their lives.

Don’t Shy Away from Any Club

Law school clubs can be quite a competitive space as most everyone wants to be involved. So, if you try to join a club and find out that they are not taking any more new members, don’t avoid clubs entirely. Look for other similar groups to join during your time in law school. Joining clubs is critical to your development as a person. Many times, it is while attending these clubs that you will experience conflict for the first time or speak in front of a large group of people.

Plan Your Week & Semester

Law school can be rather difficult to keep up with if you don’t have it properly planned out. Therefore, it is paramount that you listen carefully during your first few days of lectures to understand what your week to week duties are going to be as well as what is expected from you at the end of the semester. Professors have little to no sympathy for those who come in asking for extensions on papers. This is why it is critical that you plan out your weeks and even semesters in some cases. Practice adequate time management and focus on whatever task is at hand.

Choosing the Right Lawyer for Your Business

Anyone in the midst of opening up their own business will eventually come across a situation that will require legal representation. Issues such as manufacturing, leasing, and contract disputes are a perfect example of the everyday legal issues that business owners find themselves in. Therefore, it is only right to begin looking for a lawyer to represent your business before these issues arise. However, it can be quite daunting for new business owners to begin the process. The last thing you want is to retain a lawyer who is only self-serving, inexperienced, or difficult to work with. Read on to learn some of the things to look for when choosing the right lawyer for your business.

Understand the Type of Lawyer You Need

One of the most common mistakes made by new business owners is not hiring the right type of lawyer. You might be thinking, don’t they all practice law? The answer is yes, but much like doctors, some lawyers specialize in specific areas of law. If you have a complicated issue involving product branding and trademarks, then your best bet is to hire a lawyer who specializes in the fields of trademarks, copyrights, and LLCs.

Big or Small Firm?

Having a large firm with many resources at their disposal can seem like a sure-fire way to show strength and confidence when facing legal issues. However, ask any experienced business owner, and they will tell you that large firms often don’t have the best track record of making you their top priority. Since they manage so many clients, it can seem like you’re simply a number to them. Thus, it is recommended to seek small to medium-sized firms to represent your company. Note that you should still make it an effort to research each firm. Every business is different, take the time to find what’s right for you.

Invested In Your Business

The mark of a good business lawyer is one that invests in your company’s services. No, we’re not talking about investing in terms of funds but rather a knowledge of exactly what you do. The best way for a lawyer to help your company is to understand exactly what you do and what your goals are for the future. Therefore seeking a lawyer who consistently demonstrates this attribute is your best bet of hiring the right lawyer for your business.

Career Options for Lawyers Seeking a Change

There’s no doubt about it; becoming a lawyer is one of the most sought-after careers in the country. This, however, has also increased the number of firms that exist today. Oversaturation of the market is one of the biggest reasons why younger people with new law degrees tend to stray away from the industry after only practising a few years.  

There are also plenty of seasoned law professionals who may simply feel the time has come for a career change. This is when having a law degree can be incredibly beneficial. While law school is obviously tailored for those wishing to pursue a high-level career in law, it also prepares students for a number of non-law careers.

Those with degrees in law have proved themselves to be hard-working, industrious, and highly intelligent. Therefore, there are actually a variety of options available to them outside of the courtroom. The following list includes some of the more popular alternative careers for people with law degrees.


Law students spend years writing essays explaining the ins and outs of a particular court case. This is exactly why journalism can be a great alternative career path for a person with a law degree. Not only are you already experienced in writing from a factual standpoint, but your credentials can actually help gain authority. Furthermore, lawyers are equipped with the right tools and mindsets to be skilled in performing research and investigations, the foundations of journalism. It can be a little difficult to start, but with enough practice and continual writings, you may be able to attract the attention of a professional publication.


Perhaps you’ve enjoyed your time as a lawyer, however, you feel as though your career is stagnant. Would you like to learn more about law and teach others what you already know? Teaching is a wonderful alternative career for lawyers or newly graduated law students as it’s incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to experience a new type of role, but you can also pass on your knowledge, experiences, and passion to the people that you teach. Inspiring and teaching a classroom filled with the next generation of lawyers can be exhilarating.

Project Manager

There’s a reason why so many companies choose to have someone such as a lawyer to lead their most important projects. Lawyers are focused, organized, and can see issues before they arise. If you like a real challenge and can work well with others, becoming a project manager is a great career path to follow.


Today you have multiple businesses out there who are eager to receive advice from a lawyer but don’t have the funds to keep a professional on retainer. Through the act of freelancing, you are able to provide these services on a one-off basis. You may also provide these companies with the ability to better understand the legal side of their business, thus building credibility for them. 

Becoming a Judge or Magistrate

Pursuing a career as a judge or magistrate offers tremendous opportunities for advancement. You can even specialise in the types of cases you’ll oversee by choosing civil, family, or criminal law. This overview provides a brief understanding of what it takes to become a judge and what your responsibilities will be in that position.

How Do You Become a Judge?

In order to qualify to become a judge or magistrate, you’ll need to have an education in law. Since becoming eligible to sit as a judge requires a thorough understanding of the practice of law, it makes sense that most judges first spend several years working as lawyers. Spending time working as a lawyer provides experience in developing another skill that’s essential to becoming a judge: communication skills. You should be able to express yourself coherently through oral speech and written text since your thoughts and decisions will affect the lives of the people in your court.

You would also have to develop an understanding of legal ethics. Your actions will affect people in significant ways, so you must exhibit a good moral character. People who are successful as judges have good characters, an understanding of common sense, and an ability to make decisions that are impartial and fair.

What Does a Judge or Magistrate Do?

It may seem like a judge, or a magistrate, doesn’t do much, but most people don’t see what goes on outside of the courtroom. Before they can make a decision on any plea, or motion, they must review the documents submitted in court by the lawyers. This involves reading each document, reviewing past cases that are similar, and reviewing the relevant laws. They can spend several hours doing legal research before making a final decision.

Even after a judge makes a decision and settles an issue in court, they still have work to perform. They must write a summation that describes their decision, including the factors that influenced that decision. This helps other judges and magistrates understand why that decision was made, so they can use the information to help them settle their own legal issues, appeal requests, etcetera.

A lawyer spends years in school and, even after they begin practising law, they still continue to learn about new cases and laws. The same dedication to work and learning is required by judges and magistrates. While this can be a rewarding career, allowing you an opportunity to help others, it also entails long hours of work and study.

How to Choose a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney transfers specific power to a designated person in a legally binding document. There are a number of reasons a power of attorney can be transferred to someone else, including certain health, financial, or personal decisions. 

Delegating the management of your affairs to someone else is a major decision and should not be taken lightly. When giving another person the legal authority to act on your own behalf it is imperative that you know that person well and there is absolute trust between you both. Choose someone who has the necessary personality characteristics to handle the big decisions or has the experience to do so. 

When choosing an attorney make sure that the person you designate has great attention to detail. This person may one day be in the position to dictate the line of care you receive if you fall ill and are not responsive. What do you want them to do if you are in a vegetative state?  Certain things that you would want to happen if you were in a specific situation should be discussed with your power of attorney candidate. 

Furthermore, your attorney should have a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities and the commitment required to follow through if need be. The duties of a POA are very serious and should be taken as such. When choosing the person, consider whether or not they have the ability to work with lawyers, accountants, or anyone else who may be involved.

If you are involved in a business it is particularly important that you take your time when choosing an attorney. That person may someday be appointed to control your business and financial structures. Appoint someone who has great knowledge of your business and will make decisions that are in your best interest.

When you’re considering giving someone your power of attorney it is very helpful to sit down with that person and have a conversation about all of the responsibilities that come with the position. It’s only fair that the individual has a handle on the scope of matters regarding both your financial and legal affairs. Ideally, you will choose someone who you not only trust but also shares in your beliefs. 

Roadmap to Becoming a Lawyer in Australia

Becoming a lawyer takes a lot of work, and some could see it as intimidating when looking from the ground up. Knowing what your road to practising law looks like may ease some of that uncertainty. 

Complete a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Law (LLB) The most obvious step in becoming certified to practise is to obtain a degree in the field you want your career in. In Australia, if you don’t already have an undergraduate degree, then you’ll want to get an LLB. Contrarily, if you already have an undergraduate degree (no matter what the degree may be in), you’ll have to get your JD. Whichever course you take will need to be recognised by the Law Society in the state or territory you’ll be practising in, and it must cover the Priestly 11 —the eleven basic areas of legal knowledge required for practising lawyers in Australia. These degrees can take three or four years to complete. 

Complete Practical Legal Training Once you’ve got your degree, you’ll have to be assessed by the Legal Admissions Board in the state or territory you’ll be practising in. The board will have a list of approved Practical Legal Training (PLT) course providers that will get you on track toward earning the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. They will also assist in finding work placement so the Legal Practise Experience can be completed; this can take up to 80 days under the supervision of a lawyer with at least three years of experience. Completing your PLT can take as little as six months. 

Admission to Legal Practise With your PLT done, you’ll have up to five years to apply to the Admissions Authority in the state or territory you’ll be practising in. You must apply at least four weeks before the admissions filing date to be considered. Read up on what is expected of you: some states will require a legal counsel to move you through admission, while others will let you represent yourself. 

Practising Certificate After getting a job and completing 18 to 24 months of supervised legal practise, you can apply to the local Law Society for a Practising Certificate. With the certificate, you can decide whether to remain a Solicitor or move forward to become a Barrister. Many lawyers continue their study and get an LLM to specialise themselves further. 

Becoming a Barrister Should you not wish to remain a Solicitor, you can move forward and become a Barrister instead, allowing you to settle disputes, be a mediator, or represent a client in court. There is a national Bar Association, but each state or territory has its own Bar authority as well. To go this route, you’ll have to take the Bar exam and pass the Bar Readers’ Course. 

Things to Know About Law School

Being in law school is a popular setting for mainstream media ( Legally Blonde and How to Get Away With Murder come to mind), but what some people may not fully register is that those settings are fictitious. There may be some truth underlying the plot of the story they tell, but in reality, a socially awkward man more than likely won’t come and help you study until you’re one of the top students in your class, nor will you and a group of other students, in addition to your professor, be involved in dubious murders or other unideal situations with only yourselves to keep one another from appearing guilty. 

Push aside what pop culture shows law school to be like. If you want to attend law school and excel in it, keep these expectations in mind. 

Focus on Your Grades It may seem obvious, but keeping your grades up is essential toward succeeding not only in class but in school overall. Unlike in undergraduate courses, law school professors grade on an independent curve and rank their students according to their GPA every semester. There is an allotted number of As, Bs, C, Ds, etc. available within that curve, so if there were to be more As than allowed, the lowest few would move down to a B. This, of course, is the stem for the competitive nature law schools are known for. Still, some professors offer participation points to offset the balance—participating in class is a must. 

Prepare for Everything While you may have been able to slack off every now and then during undergrad and still come off relatively okay, law school won’t allow for that. Your professor will expect you to be prepared, and skimming the material or winging it will not only be a disservice to your professor and classmates, but it will be a disservice to yourself as well. If you aren’t prepared for whatever reason, be upfront about it rather than struggling through something you don’t know. You may be called on more the next time your class meets, however, so be sure not to be caught unprepared twice in a row. 

Balance School and Life As important as being prepared and earning good grades is, you’ll get nowhere if you don’t take care of yourself as well. Contrary to popular belief, college students cannot survive on coffee and Redbull alone, all-nighters will only fog your brain up more, and stress is more detrimental to your ability as a student than it is helpful. Take the time to put the books away and hang out with friends or watch some Netflix. Doing a relaxing activity will not only relieve your stress, but it’ll also let you look at your notes and textbooks with fresh eyes and a clearer mind when it’s time to dive back into your studies. 

It takes a lot of work to succeed in law school. By placing yourself in the reality of being there and knowing what to expect before you start classes, you should be better prepared for what’s to come. 

Al-Kateb v Godwin

Many court cases become famous or historic because of the controversy that surrounds them. While many cases follow existing laws there are some that interpret the law in a new and different way, setting new precedents. In 2004 the case of Al-Kateb v Godwin in the High Court of Australia did just that.

In the year 2000, a Palestinian man named Ahmed Al-Kateb who was born in Kuwait moved to Australia. Al-Kateb applied for a temporary protection visa which recognizes a person as a refugee who is fleeing persecution. A temporary protection visa (TPV) is issued to someone who applies for refugee status after arriving unauthorised in Australia. In Al-Kateb’s case, the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration made the decision to refuse his application. The Refugee Review Tribunal and the Federal Court upheld the Commonwealth’s decision.

In 2002 it was Al-Kateb’s wish to then return to Kuwait or Gaxa, however, no country would accept him. Due to the countries refusal and Australia’s denial of a TPV Al-Kateb was declared stateless and wound up being detained within the policy of mandatory detention.

There were two issues that made this case so controversial. One is whether or not the Migration Act 1958 allowed for a person in Al-Kateb’s situation to be detained indefinitely. The Migration Act allowed unlawful non-citizens to be detained until their removal from the country, even when their removal could not take place in the foreseeable future. The second issue was if the Act did permit indefinite detainment was it actually legal under the Constitution of Australia. 

These two points caused quite a debate, with two Justices offering differing views on the constitutional interpretation. The views these individuals expressed focused particularly on human rights and the role of international law. The High Court considered these issues and a majority ruled that the Act allowed for indefinite detention and was not unconstitutional.

At the time Al-Kateb was to be detained indefinitely until either a Middle Eastern state became willing to take him or a state of Palestine was created. The ruling sparked major controversy as many saw the scope of mandatory detention laws as a violation of human rights.

The case put pressure on the Immigration Minister and forced the Court to review other stateless people’s circumstances. At the time 24 people being held in immigration detention had their cases looked at for a second time. After reviewing Al-Kateb and 8 other people were granted bridging visas. In 2005 these people were released from detention, however, they were unable to study, work or obtain government benefits. 

Al-Kateb has said of the situation that he was constantly worried about being sent back and had to rely on donations from friends and supporters. In the summer of 2007, he was granted a permanent visa by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.

The case is used in academic circles as an example of the court taking differing approaches to statutory interpretations and how a legalistic approach can contrast with a purposive approach.

Pros and Cons of Retaining a Lawyer

A retainer fee is money paid in advance to a lawyer for services that will be rendered. The retainer can be paid based on an estimate of the amount of work done for the client that month or can cover all anticipated work for the entire case.

For example, if you hire a lawyer to handle a custody matter you may pay them 5,000 to provide that service. In that case, every letter, phone call or time spent working on your case will be billed to the retainer amount that you’ve put on deposit with them. In some cases, if you do not use the full amount in some cases there is no refund or credit. It’s important to understand the retainer agreement and read the fine print before signing so you know just how any overpayments will be handled. If you use more than the amount of the retainer it is reasonable to be sure that you will have to pay additional fees.

There are a number of reasons that a lawyer may request a retainer fee. It can compensate the lawyer for the use of their expertise and reputation, even if it is because that particular lawyer’s name can help the client gain leverage or allow the case to settle quickly. There are instances where the right lawyer can even achieve a settlement after only a few phone calls or a letter. If that’s the case that the value of the retainer fee is obvious and the lawyer should be compensated for the use of his or her reputation.

A lawyer may also request a retainer fee when they are agreeing to be on standby for the case. When that happens the lawyer is essentially forgoing other gainful employment or business opportunities so that they are able to remain available when they are needed for the lawsuit. This is a major reason many businesses have lawyers on retainer if the situation occurs where a lawsuit is filed against a company a lawyer that is on retainer can be available immediately with their expertise.

Furthermore, retainer fees protect lawyers once the work has begun. If the case proceeds the lawyer can use the fee to defray costs as they work on the case. If a disagreement takes place or an unforeseen circumstance makes it impossible for the client to pay the lawyer the retainer fee ensures that the lawyer will receive at least some of their compensation for the time they’ve spent on the matter.

There are, inevitably, arguments against collecting a retainer fee up front. There are people who are simply put off by the idea of prepaying for a service and will choose to hire a lawyer who does not charge a retainer fee. That is often why a lawyer who does charge a fee upfront is a professional who is specialised in a major discipline, well-known, or exceptional in one way or another. Scarcity creates value which can provide specialised lawyers with an advantage when negotiating retainer fees.

Another argument against retainer fees is that for some potential clients there is a fear that if a case settles before much work is done the client will have essentially paid for nothing. However, the counter-argument to that is of course that the lawyer has potentially utilized his or her reputation and the client paid for the opportunity to use that lawyer to their advantage. 

Finally, when given the opportunity to work with two similarly qualified lawyers many may choose the one who does not charge a retainer fee. Many lawyers are willing to forgo the fee or refund it if little or no work is actually completed before a settlement is reached. New layers may find that it is beneficial to refrain from collecting retainer fees so that they can compete against more seasoned layers with already developed reputations.

A lawyer’s choice of whether or not to charge a retainer fee is ultimately their preference. It’s important to evaluate layers and determine how experienced, well-known, and qualified that individual is before deciding if their expertise warrants the fee that they are charging. Most lawyers are willing to work with a client and find the best approach so that it is fair to both the lawyer and the client. 

The Case of Dietrich v The Queen

A court case in which a law is interpreted differently than ever before often makes whatever particular subject of the case reach headlines. There is usually quite a bit of controversy. When a ruling is brought down in these situations it can influence the future of similar cases in the future. Dietrich v The Queen in 1992 was a great example of such a court case.

Dietrich v The Queen was a very important case concerning the nature of the right to a fair trial. It also highlighted in what circumstances legal aid should be provided by the state for defendants who cannot afford legal representation. The issue began when the accused, Olaf Dietrich flew from Bangkok, Thailand to Melbourne Airport concealing 70 grams of heroin in condoms that he had swallowed. Australian Federal Police arrested Dietrich the next morning and he was taken into custody. 

While being tried in the County Court of Victoria for charges relating to drug trafficking the accused did not have any legal representation. While Dietrich had applied for the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria’s assistance, it said that unless he pleaded guilty it would not help him. Dietrich refused to plead, and instead applied to the Supreme Court of Victoria for assistance, but once again was turned down. While Dietrich was acquitted of the lesser charge, he was convicted on the principal charge in the County Court. Dietrich then took his appeal to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. Finally, he then sought leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia.

During the appeal in the High Court Dietrich was represented by David Grace of the Queen’s Counsel. The argument stated that his trial in County Court had been a miscarriage of justice because he did not have legal representation. His lawyer argued that because of the seriousness of the crimes he was charged with counsel should have been provided to him at the public’s expense. If that was not possible, it was alternatively argued that the judge should have adjourned the trial until Dietrich could obtain counsel for himself. 

Dietrich used three different sources in law to prove his point. The first was a section of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958 which has since been repealed. The second was the obligation of Australia under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The article of importance in the Covenant provides that an accused person should have legal assistance provided in any case where the interest of justice so required. Australia hasn’t incorporated the ICCPR into its own domestic laws with any type of specific legislation, however, Dietrich argued that common law of Australia should be developed in principle of the ICCPR and other international treaties that the country is a part of. 

In the High Court, the majority of judges decided that Dietrich did have the right to a fair trial and by not allowing him proper legal representation the original trial was unfair. Furthermore, it was concluded that when someone accused does not have legal representation, through no fault of their own and is charged with a serious offence, a judge can order than a trial is stayed until legal representation is available.

The nature of this trial focused on the common law tradition that anyone accused is entitled to a fair trial. This case was significant in not only criminal law, but also in Australian constitutional law because members of the High Court found implied human rights in the Australian Constitution.