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August 11, 2008 | by  | in News |
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Denny Crane doesn’t do it for everyone

The ambition to follow in the footsteps of first year law heroes Denny Crane and Alan Shaw, both characters of the television programme Boston Legal, appears to be waning amongst law graduates.

Stephen Penk, University of Auckland Dean of Students (Law) recently told the New Zealand Herald that about 50 per cent of law graduates do not enter legal practice. The Herald reported that nationally, a majority of law students enrol in two degrees, facilitating the trend away from entering legal practice.

Victoria University’s Deputy Dean of Law, Gordon Stewart, says most law students do start law school with ambitions of entering private practice. “For that you can thank – or blame – the likes of Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, and, I’m told, but pray it’s not true, Judge Judy.”

After five years of study, the attitudes and ambitions of many law students evolve. “As they go through law school and learn more about what options are out there, their horizons may change,” Mr Stewart said.

Career Development and Employment Manager Liz Medford says law is a very broad discipline which is “very attractive to a wide range of employers.”

While Victoria does not receive feedback from all graduates, Medford estimates a “ballpark figure” of the number of students who enter law firms “might be around 35 per cent.” She said a significant number of students also go into legal divisions in the public and private sectors.

A host of career opportunities await law graduates who do not wish to emulate the success of the partners and lawyers at Crane, Poole and Schmidt. Stewart says law graduates find employment in the public service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, politics, legal academia, parliamentary drafting and journalism.

“And finally, if Conrad Smith and Victor Vito are anything to go by – professional rugby,” he adds.

Third-year law student Ally Jackson has little intention of going into legal practice after graduating. “The lifestyle really doesn’t appeal to me. And some people are in it for the wrong reasons,” she said.

Jackson believes her law degree will provide her with an “edge” and a “good skills base for jobs in other sectors.”

Stewart agrees, saying: “If they [law graduates] don’t use their degree directly … the skills which they develop in getting that degree are valuable skills in themselves. They can be put to good use in many quarters.”

About 700 students enrol in first year law at Victoria. In 2007, 243 students graduated with a Bachelor of Laws, and 31 of those students graduated with Honours.

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