Written by Dr Melanie Brockway- Work 300 Student
‘In what felt like the blink of an eye, I had completed my 120-hour work placement! Despite my initial trepidation, I was sorry to be finished; it felt like only yesterday I had started, yet at the same time I was amazed at how quickly I had adapted to a new routine and workplace. For my children, the earlier starts to our day and the drag of after school care were decidedly less pleasing…..
The second half of my placement proceeded much the same as the first. I became increasingly confident navigating client files, and at using precedents and the firm’s electronic file management system. I came to appreciate that while ‘law’ is new to me, my previous professional experience meant tasks such as preparing memos and other correspondence, undertaking research and interacting with clients are not. The knowledge and skills obtained through my degree helped me to quickly, and with a level of confidence I had not anticipated, transfer my pre-existing skills to legal practice. I continued to see my maturity and previous professional experience as assets, and this was reinforced by the positive feedback I received.
I completed WORK300 whilst also studying LAW480. For those yet to study LAW480, it is one of the most intensive and undoubtedly the most practical subject of UNE’s Bachelor of Laws. Legal writing is a central theme of LAW480. This made it the ideal subject to be studying (other than the workload!) alongside WORK300. With Paul Akon’s mantra of ‘clear, concise and correct’ never far from my mind, my placement provided lots of practical opportunities to put my legal writing skills to the test.
As I reflect on my placement, I have three key learnings to share. Firstly, a work placement is the ideal ‘no strings attached’ way to tryout a particular area of legal practice. Even if you hate it, you’re done after 120 hours and you will have gained valuable experience. At the risk of sounding INCREDIBLY BORING, I know myself to be extremely process oriented, and with a good memory and an eye for detail. My placement confirmed my interest in personal injury law, but more importantly also that I have personal attributes suited to practising in this area of law.
Secondly, working at a plaintiff firm gave me the opportunity to directly interact with clients, and I loved it. I am now more certain than ever that commercial law is not for me; I want to work with clients directly to hopefully help make a difficult period in someone’s life easier.
Lastly, and most importantly, my placement provided me with a much-needed confidence boost. Seven years out of the workforce is a long time! I was seriously nervous about my ability to re-enter the workforce, and whether I had anything to offer a prospective employer. By undertaking my placement, I now know I can do it. Even better, I know I possess other skills and experience that I believe give me an edge over the average law graduate.
Thanks to my placement I feel far more optimistic about my future employment prospects. Having recent and relevant work experience has given my CV a much-needed lift! I can’t have done too badly either…. a week after I finished my placement I was offered casual paralegal work three days a week. I’m now making the most of this opportunity and boosting my CV and confidence a little further.’