Students and the International Market: Foundations for Success

Posted 24 July 2017

With the increase of globalisation, law students are increasingly facing competition from the global market, but are also exposed to greater international opportunities both abroad and with international firms with an Australian presence. In a discussion with The Australian, Michael Legg (Associate Professor of Law, UNSW) said that international firms are looking at Australian law students for roles abroad, including London top tiers and in the Asia market.

While there is obviously no precise formula for success, it would seem that enhancing individual appeal to international firms follows similar concepts to our domestic market, just applied to a different subject matter. In the same discussion, George Williams, the Dean of Law at UNSW, supported the following points regarding students looking at international markets.

Law students need to do the necessary study. While this seems somewhat obvious, at a more nuanced level this involves being reactive to what the international market is looking for, but also diversifying skills sets and creating the ability to provide value beyond other students. Increasingly, law schools are offering double degrees to encourage diversification of skillsets, but staying within the law degree, taking subjects with a focus on international law or dealing with conflicting laws can be useful. And, even if you don’t have a particular jurisdiction in mind, taking subjects offering an introduction to a particular national jurisdiction (China, USA, etc) can be highly useful, if not for specific subject knowledge then at least for the benefit of being able to challenge the presumptions and norms in your own domestic system, and becoming more legally critical.

Finding opportunities as a student can be difficult at times, but taking opportunities to study a legal subject in a foreign country can be invaluable. Apart from legal content, there are very distinct cultural and sub cultural levels in foreign practice and business, not dissimilar to those that exist in Australian practice. Studying abroad can give you an understanding or exposure to the cultural influences in legal systems and practice, and a unique understanding of ‘the way things are done’ in legal practice elsewhere.

While not unique to the legal industry, you must also understand what it is that employers and the market are looking for, and then tailor your skills to that or at least develop skills with broad transferability. For example, there are certain areas of law, such as commercial, contracts, litigation, and dispute resolution, that are relevant in most legal systems, but which will vary in legal content from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, the value is in understanding those differences as well as core similarities, which can be leveraged, and having an awareness of the risks of dealing with different jurisdictions but also being able to manage them.