Get ready to make the leap into law
By now you should be across the wide variety of roles in this profession. So it's time to sharpen the focus on your goal and how you'll get there.
Being prepared to study at university and making the right choices are two important final steps in reaching your career goals. From the hints and tips below, create a To Do list, add these tasks into your Career Action Plan, implement your plan and then you'll be ready to make the leap.
Preparing to study at university
First you need to consider the career path you have planned. Law and politics studies offer a wide choice of careers and some involve more study and training than others.
A law or politics degree is a real advantage if you want to work in the the government and the public sector, business, trade unions, politics or in administrative and support roles. Law graduates have had totally different and successful careers, as comedians, artists and musicians - their knowledge of law helping them to protect their creative copyright, or negotiate strong and profitable contracts for their work. Similarly, politics graduates are often sought after in journalism, human resources and social and political research. A degree in law or politics opens up a broad range of career opportunities.
If you want to work as a fully qualified lawyer in the Courts and Judicial System, you will need to complete a degree at university and then complete a practical training requirement before you are fully qualified to practise law.
For details of these options see Explore options and pathways on the Building skills page.
Remember, choosing one direction is not final - you can always change your mind, and your career path, if you find the first is not where you now want to go.
- Work out how you will get to the campuses of the universities you are considering applying for. Remember, you will be travelling there most days for classes.
- For law degrees, there are the 11 compulsory subjects you have to study known as the Priestly 11. In addition, there will be options to study a lot of different areas of law. Do some research to find out what interests you, before applying for a course.
- A Bachelor of Political Science is a multidisciplinary degree with a wide range of subject offerings. Your course will likely invole a combination of core (compulsory) and elective units (subjects you choose). Political studies are often combined with International Relations, which focuses on relationships and interactions between countries, more so than internal politics. Be sure to research which areas interest you, and find a university course that caters to these interests in their units offered.
- Law and politics, like other courses, involve a lot of reading, so be prepared for reading texts such as legislation, legal cases and law books.
- You will like some subjects a lot more than others, but they are all equally important. You might find that working in a study group with other students makes study more achievable and enjoyable.
- Taking good notes in class is the best way to prepare for exams and assignments. Always read notes through after class and look up any difficult concepts and ideas for better understanding.
- Prepare to get involved in extra activities like debating teams, student societies and competitions (legal competitions include 'mooting' and 'trial advocacy') at university. It is a great way to build your skills and your resume.
- Get a head start on your understanding of the ideas studied in a law or politics course by participating in LEAP into...Law activities.
- If you are a law student, look for work experience opportunities in legal firms, courts or legal departments of business or government. Your careers teacher and subject teachers may be able to suggest other options.
- If you are a politics student, consider work experience in governmental and diplomatic institutions, as a politicians assistant, in your local council or as a research assistant in government and research departments.
- Like all university courses, studying law or politics can be tough. Make sure you understand the requirements of the course before you begin, so that you can be prepared for the hard work.
- If you find you're not enjoying study, don't be afraid to investigate other courses or see a course counsellor at your university to discuss your options.
Making the right choices
It's time to do some serious research to narrow down the university courses and pathways that best suit your needs and preferences. Our LEAP Partner universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...
You may not be certain of your exact career goal yet but don't worry, universities and courses usually offer flexibility to change direction. It’s also important to remember that any decision you make about your course and career is not final. While it is worth carefully considering your choices and trying to make the best decision for your pathway, you can make changes in the future if you realise that there's a better option for you.
Things to consider when choosing a course
- What does the course cover?
- Apart from the core subjects, what elective subjects are available?
- What specialisations are taught in later years at each university? Not all courses offer all specialisations, so if you want to study a particular area, make sure the choice is available in the course you choose.
- What flexibility is available to transfer from one course or specialisation to another, in case you find you're not enjoying your first choice?
- If your preferred career requires more than one specialisation, which course combines these, or lets you study more than one specialisation as a second major?
- Can you combine a degree with another degree (for example, a Business, Arts, Economics or Science degree)?
A double degree:
- will broaden your expertise, give you an edge in the job market and more flexible employment options;
- is usually completed in a shorter time and at less total cost than studying for two consecutive single degrees.
- If you are short of time, or in a hurry to get going, are there intensive courses (where units are done full time for a number of weeks – rather than across a whole semester/ trimester)?
- If travel or living away from home is a problem, what distance study options are available, e.g. online learning?
- University is more than just the study – universities are great social environments where you can make lifelong friends, so when looking at universities also consider the added extras like societies and clubs.
- You can also expand your horizons by studying abroad for a semester in many university courses. If that appeals, check what is possible in the courses you are considering.
- If you have special needs, check out the student support services offered.
- If you are wanting to study law and have decided on becoming a practising lawyer, will the course you are choosing get you the accreditation of the Council of Legal Education?
Making the most of Open Day
University Open Days are a great opportunity for you to get a feel for a university. As well as getting to know the campus, you have the chance to meet current students, find out more about the courses you are interested in and learn about any clubs and societies at the university.
Go along with a list prepared questions. Try to talk to the faculty staff who actually teach the course you're interested in and the students currently undertaking it.
To make the most of Open Days, download the Open Day Hints and Checklist [PDF 100kb] and consider the following:
- Plan well ahead. Decide which Open Days to attend, based on the Universities you are seriously considering as a preference.
- Remember it might be a weekend commitment. Consider your travel times and any accommodation needs, to maximise your time at the event.
- As well as the questions in our Open Day Hints and Checklist, write a list of your own questions to ask on the day.
Final checklist, then it’s time to apply
Tick off these last few items and you'll be ready to leap into uni:
- when choosing a course, think about how you’ll get to the campus;
- if you need different learning options, to fit study in with work, does it offer these;
- is there flexibility to change courses or disciplines if you change your mind;
- with a wide range of courses on offer, different ATARs will apply to different courses. If you don’t think you'll get the ATAR you need for your first choice, look for other courses that may be available with a lower ATAR. Transferring back to your preferred course later on, if you are doing well, may be possible;
- when offered a place in a course, make sure you follow the right steps to accept your offer and follow the university enrolment steps, which should be outlined to you with your offer.
Study pathways are not always smooth. There may be problems or barriers which you will have to overcome. There are many people you can talk to about any issues you have while studying (including counsellors, academics and administration staff). These are some common barriers that students experience:
...I complete the prerequisite subjects but my ATAR score isn’t high enough for the course I want?
- Check the middle-band entry consideration for your course as it may enable you to get in. Alternatively, you could begin a similar degree with a lower ATAR at the same university, or a different one, and look to transfer into your desired degree later on.
...I complete VCE and get the ATAR for my preferred course, but I did not complete the pre-requisite VCE subjects?
- Most universities will allow you to take a bridging subject or might offer you a competency exam. Contact the university you wish to apply for, to find out what they recommend.
...I’m interested in studying at university but I haven’t got the marks and am unsure if I could even handle the material?
- Some universities allow for “single subject study” where you can study a single subject from a course. Then depending on your results you can potentially be offered a spot in the full course.
...I find that the course or university I chose isn't for me?
- Once you are in the university system, it is often possible to transfer from one course or university to another. Speak to an academic advisor about your transfer options and what credits you may get for relevant subjects already completed.
...I didn’t finish Year 12 but am now really interested in studying for a degree?
- Some universities have “tertiary enabling programs” which allow entry into tertiary study. Alternatively, you could study a diploma course at TAFE and use this as a stepping stone to get into university.
...I'm doing a diploma course but decide I really want to get a degree?
- If you do well enough in your subjects, it’s possible that you could transfer from the diploma to the bachelor degree course. You may even get credits for relevant subjects completed. You will need to talk to someone in the future students area of the university offering the degree course you want to do, to see what your options are.
Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QUILT) gives you feedback from thousands of students about their experiences studying higher education in Australia.
Study Assist helps school students and their families understand what support they are eligible for, if pursuing higher education, based on a range of study options available to them. (Australian Government site)
My Future has a guide to career development, to education beyond Year 12, videos by professionals and interactive career quizzes. My Future also has a new myfuture forum, a tool allowing you to talk to people working in a range of industries. (Australian Government site).
Law related websites
Law Council of Australia is the peak national representative body of the Australian legal profession and their website contains information about changes in Australian law and the Legal Profession.
Council of Australian Law Deans - Studying Law in Australia provides information to help you choose the best law school for you and the journey to become a practicing lawyer in Australia.
Victoria Law Foundation has clear and plain English information including educational resources on the courts, legal system and VCE legal studies resources.