So, you’ve come to Australia with nothing but a suitcase full of swimmers and enough quid in your back pocket for 20 or 30 litres of cask wine and some instant noodles? Enjoy yourself now because the honeymoon won’t last forever.
Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne are amongst some of the most expensive places to live in the whole world and, unless you’re a distant relative of the Queen or something, your parents are unlikely to keep forking over the sterling so you can lounge around in the sun doing nothing on the job front.
Don’t fret though, because if you’ve got yourself a working holiday visa you needn’t spend your nights polishing glasses in a dingy bar. With a little fortitude and a hard working ethos you can carve yourself out a fulfilling temp job in the legal sector with good pay and plenty of opportunities for sponsorship.
You don’t even need a legal degree from Oxford or Cambridge either (although, if we’re being honest, it helps). While many legal secretary jobs will advertise asking for 2–3 years experience in applicants, there are always exceptions to the rule and the best way to get a foot in the door in this industry is to get yourself on the books at a good temp agency, like Legal Personnel.
“To work with our agency, the qualifications needed are a minimum of six months’ legal experience or a law degree,” said Sally Higham from Legal Personnel, which nearly prompted sad faces until she added: “or a valid Working Holiday Visa and Australian Tax File Number.” Success!
Jobs available to backpackers on a temporary basis in the legal sector include things like legal secretaries (known as paralegals in the UK) and the much under-appreciated role of assistant clerk (known lovingly amongst barristers as ‘gophers’ or ‘runners’).
You could even find yourself working in the mailroom, on reception, or in the catering department. The big law firms don’t like to see their barristers go hungry, after all.
Don’t sniff derisively, though, because the average pay rates for a legal secretary run between $24 and $32 per hour + superannuation. Eye watering numbers to be sure. I can relate from personal experience that gophers can expect anywhere between $18 to $25 an hour, more than enough dough to keep your Saturday nights soaked in wine and MSG-flavoured hot water.
“With the unemployment rate so low and the skills shortage across the legal industry, there has been great demand for legal temps in all states,” explains Sally Higham.
With a main office in Sydney, Legal Personnel also have a large online recruitment reach, offering jobs right around Australia and in New Zealand. An agency like Legal Personnel represents one of the surest and thus best ways to get yourself into a temporary job within the legal sector.
Once you do have your foot in the door at a law firm and you’ve proven yourself to be worth their time, they almost all offer training to their staff, so you don’t need to be an expert in the vagaries of the Australian common law system when you start.
As mentioned earlier, temp jobs in the legal sector offer excellent opportunities for future sponsorship, as long as you are willing to put in the hard work. In my experience a legal firm will be loathe to let you go if you’re a hard worker and they’ve invested some time and effort into training you up.
After that it’s only up and up for you in your new legal career. Then perhaps one day you can fly your folks out and show just how well you’re doing without them.
To learn more head to legalpersonnel.com.au