ALSA Newsletter 2016 Vol.1
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February 2016 Edition
Presented By
Come along to Leo Cussen's Info Session on the 5 April at 5pm. At this event, you can have a look around their facilities, meet with current Leo Cussen trainees, along with graduates who are now working in the legal sector.

There will also be a presentation where you can find out more about their Practical Training Course which is offered onsite (full time) and online (full-time and part-time). Light refreshments will be provided and you can register here!


What is ALSA?
What is ALSA?


Greetings fellow law students,

It has been a busy Christmas and we have lots coming up. The team and I have been planning for the year and we have started one or two articles and submissions on behalf of law students. We have a piece coming up in the Australian Law Journal on “The Law and the legal profession in the next decade representing the viewpoint of students” which should be published in June 2016. There is also work currently underway to advocate on the Graduate Oversupply, Mental Health Declarations in Admissions, PLT Requirements and access to education.

About ALSA

As the peak national representative body for law students we;

  • advocate on issues affecting law students nationally,

  • run the Australian national competitions (Championship Moot, International Humanitarian Law Moot, Client Interview, Negotiations, Witness Examination and Paper Presentation),

  • provide services to the Law Student Societies to help them provide services to their members,

  • provide services direct to law students, in particular our publications, and

  • hold ALSA Councils three times a year where representatives from the LSS’s come together to discuss issue affecting law students and to gain resources to take back to their societies.

Plan for 2016

In 2016 we will be focusing on collaboration, advocacy and inclusivity. To this end we plan on going out to Law Student Societies / Associations on issues of advocacy as frequently as we can, but at a minimum every time ALSA is requested for comment in the media. We would also be grateful to hear from law students directly through commenting on our Facebook page or by direct e-mail to myself the VP-Education, Alex Bell-Rowe (

Conference 2016 – Hobart 4-10 July

We will be increasing the number of activities at our annual Conference for general delegates and we hope to have at least one educational activity each day in addition to all of the social activities. If you have an opportunity to come to Hobart in July we would love to have you there.

I wish you all the best for a successful 2016, your local law student society and ALSA are here to support you and enhance your law student experience, get involved and good luck with your studies!

Paul Melican

President | Australian Law Students' Association





The Education Team

After getting our bearings in the bewildering world of the ALSA Education Portfolio, the Education team has put together a plan for the year ahead, and has got cracking on a couple of it's key points.
What we've done?
Firstly, we have commented on the state of the graduate market in the Australian Financial Review. This has been followed up with a paper both assessing the nature of the job market, and exploring the capacity of a law degree outside of traditional legal employment. 
We have also submitted some food for thought to the Australian Law Journal, contributing the ALSA submission with articles on the changing role of the graduate, and the health and wellbeing concerns that law students and young lawyers are facing, as well as steps for mitigating those issues.
Finally, we have prepared a submission on the current state of FEE-Help and the issues that it is creating for law students, particularly in the area of practical legal training. 
What we are doing?
We are currently in the process of completing an International Careers Guide for the distribution to all students. This will be an extensive guide to NGO and International Body careers, public interest careers abroad, as well as private and commercial opportunities available to Australians overseas. This is set to be released very soon.
We will be releasing a guide shortly providing advice how LSSs should deal with internal advocacy issues as they face their law schools. This will hopefully help student bodies best represent the concerns and queries of their members to the relevant faculties, and achieve the most positive outcomes.
We are in the process of putting together a guide on mental health awareness. This will look at early warning signs for students to look out for in themselves and their colleagues, before more severe conditions begin to occur, as well as what resources are available on both a national and local level to help the many students out there facing these issues.
Finally, we are in the process of putting together a submission on the current state of admissions and practical legal training in Australia. Concerns have been raised in both the nature of PLT and how it translates across jurisdictions, as well as to the content of the criterion that determine admissions. We are researching this, and will provide a report shortly.
What's in the works?
We will be looking into developing a 'best-practice guide' for LSSs and Law Schools, in the area of protecting the mental health of students. We are researching and preparing a statement on the barriers to entry to legal education for indigenous Australians. We will be updating both the judges associateship guide and the public interest careers guide. Finally, we will be investigating the ins and outs of legal work experience. This is only the plan as it stands, and we will looking into developing more guides and papers as issues arise with the new academic year.
Watch this space!

The Big Meet Sydney Careers Fair

Law Students are invited to attend this careers fair and use it as an opportunity to explore the multitude of ways one may use their law degree. Many of Australia's leading organisations will be at this year’s event, as well as Australia’s leading law firms. 
Whether you're looking for summer clerkship and graduate employment information, a new job, vacation work, an international internship, a gap-year experience, voluntary work, travel, overseas opportunities, a teaching job or post graduate education, or you’re unsure which of Australia’s leading organisations hire law students and graduates, The Big Meet can get you started. 

Entry is FREE. Don't miss out!
Visit The Big Meet website for information and register for the Sydney Careers Fair here.

The Competitions Portfolio

If you’ve ever dreamt about fighting for fairness like Erin Brockovich, persuading a prejudiced jury like Atticus Finch or more realistically, flunking a subject like Elle Woods then law school is the place for you! More poignantly, if you actually want to learn some practical skills like public speaking, legal drafting and research then law school competitions are also the place to be.

Regardless of your motivations for enrolling in a law degree, it’s likely that you will find the experience of competing at law school both personally satisfying and professionally enriching.

Each Australian law school runs their own legal competitions. Although this is usually organised by student societies sometimes faculty may be involved, particularly with inter-varsity competitions such as the Jessup Moot and Sir Harry Gibbs Constitutional Law Moot. Traditionally the main competitions available are mooting, witness examination, client interview and negotiations. Outside of these ‘big four’, the other competitions that you may come across include essay writing and paper presentation competitions. Nationally, ALSA runs five competitions (mooting, witness examination, client interview, negotiation and paper presentation) at our week-long national conference in July and these are available for students who seek the glory of being crowned ‘national champion’!

Of course, the ALSA Competitions Portfolio has a broader goal than simply facilitating these competitions. As the National Officer, my role is to act as the conduit for information exchange and knowledge accumulation across the universities. This year our portfolio is leading two research projects into competitions, looking at the ways in which law schools can improve their competitions so as to better respond to the concerns of disadvantaged groups such as women and those students with reduced accessibility (inclusive of disability, remote-access and mature-age). Excitingly this research has already been able to contribute to the creation of a Women Only mooting competition at one of our affiliate universities.

If you feel as though you could contribute to competitions at your university or through ALSA, then there is no time like the present to get in contact! Put you wig on and pull your gavel out and get involved.

February Council Review

When I was a kid, I would hide behind couches or under covers with my best friend under the impression that if our parents couldn’t find us, we wouldn’t have to go home. This weekend in Melbourne at my first ALSA Council was the first time I had felt that feeling since I was 8.

On our first day in Council, I felt a little bit in over my head. My position as Marketing Officer has been my first experience with the world of student politics and LSS/A’s. I was surrounded by so many brilliant people who were Presidents or Vice Presidents of their respective LSS/A’s who had such incredible input into conversation. However, this overwhelming feeling dissipated when I realised that everyone was there to learn; from each other and from our amazing guest speakers.

Rob Hulls gave us the rundown on leadership, while Julian Burnside lay down the law on the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison. Ezra Ozege made sure we knew what our directors duties were, and BeyondLaw helped us reach our maximum marketing potential.

Our break out groups consisted of lively discussion between LSS/A’s about what was working, what wasn’t working and what we could try next. These discussions between President’s from different States and Territories only get facilitated three times a year, so despite being knackered from the night before, no one was taking that time for granted. It’s truly remarkable how each comment made was valued.

Our advocacy sessions were intense, with every point contested and debated to ensure that we were doing the right thing by our law students. No stone was left unturned. I found myself thinking ‘wow I didn’t even consider that’ so many times that as a law student, I was thankful that these issues were in the hands of these insanely capable people.

Then there was the nightlife. The good food, great people, wild adventures through the beautiful city of Melbourne. I will treasure what I remember of those nights, and the sleepy breakfasts that followed.

So when I got to the airport on Sunday afternoon after our hectic SGM (which I live tweeted on our twitter, check it out), I felt sadness like I hadn’t felt since I was 8. I was leaving these wonderful, spirited friends I’d made and the city that I loved and it felt unjust, to have made such connections in only three days only to have to leave. As I cross off each day until Conference on the 4th of July (132 days to go), I’m grateful for those who encouraged me to get involved because I will never look back.

- Grace Norris, Marketing Officer. 

To Paralegal or not? 

Does taking a role as a Paralegal help your chance of obtaining a Graduate role?

There are lots of opportunities one can pursue whilst completing your law degree. Paralegalling seem like a great way to get in to a firm, prove yourself and get to know a firm before applying. But it is a little bit more complicated than that, there is a large time commitment and the work is often more administrative than legal, does that mean that you are putting all of your eggs in one basket?
The following are stories of how two young graduates have gone about it and how it worked out.
Graduate 1:
“Whenever you look at graduate roles, the description always has 2 years PAE required. It's every graduate’s nightmare... How can I get 2 yrs PAE experience if no one will hire me to get that experience?

Whilst studying my law degree via distance, I worked in various roles in law firms and in chambers in the hope that would give me an advantage once I graduate.

Fast forward to my final year of my law degree... I interviewed for a role as a paralegal in a well known firm. During my interview I was asked about my studies and when they would be completed. I made it clear that I would complete my LLB and GDLP within 6-8 months and anticipate being admitted in the beginning on 2015. I was told that there was room for progression in the firm, they told me about 3 other staff members who started as paralegals and once admitted where promoted to junior lawyers within the firm... It all seems promising.

I worked hard during my time as a paralegal (which wasn't my first time as a paralegal either, having already 3yrs experience prior). I meet with clients, took instructions, drafted various documents, liaised with other lawyers and counsel... all with the notion that this was preparation for a junior solicitor role.

Once again, fast forward to the beginning of 2015, amidst the excitement of being admitted and the beginning of my career I got told 'Your position remains the same, we are keeping you as a paralegal. We assume your going to want to use your degrees so we will be happy to accommodate you attending job interviews when you need to.'

Whilst I do believe that many firms do have the best intentions, others I believe use it as a 'carrot on a string' to get law students into roles who have legal knowledge who can do the work of a junior lawyer (without the sign off) but for less pay. It's a sad reality for graduates who don't know whether a paralegal role will be their foot into the door or a dead end.”

  • Anonymous Australian Law Graduate
Graduate 2:
“During my high school years I placed a lot of pressure on myself to strive to achieve top marks and this followed on when I began law school. However, there was a general feeling that top marks in law school didn't quite cut it and so I began networking with within the law school first year mentoring program and also through mutual friends. From there, I was able to gain a position in a law firm in Brisbane as a part time paralegal in my second year of law.
I was fortunate enough to have an understanding boss that allowed me to take study leave during exam and assessment time, making my working and university life somewhat more manageable. I gained first hand exposure within the firm, allowing me to further advance my knowledge and skills set within the legal profession.
After graduating from my law degree at the end of last year I was unsure whether my paralegal role would land me a graduate role within the firm. However, I was very lucky to have been offered a full time position as a graduate. Having applied for graduate positions leading up to the end of my degree and not hearing anything due to the unsteady graduate job market; I accepted the position with much excitement and eagerness to finally be entering the legal profession on a full time basis.
I have just commenced my PLT studies with the College of Law and have definitely found that my experience as a paralegal has enabled me to understand the requirements of the coursework which centres on the practical side of the legal profession as opposed to the theoretical side at university. On completion of my PLT and admission as a solicitor, I will then move to the role of solicitor within the firm.
I encourage law students to use their time whilst studying like I did to gain work experience within the profession or to volunteer their time at such places like Community Legal Centres, attend conferences, panel discussions at the courts and become a member of the numerous legal organisations in order to network themselves as much as possible.
You never know where it may take you.”

  • Anonymous Australian Law Graduate
Both of these young graduates have no doubt gained valuable experience as a result of their time working as paralegals but it does not always work out. It is recommended that if you are going to go down the path of paralegalling;
  • That you continue to build up your networks elsewhere
  • Don’t stop doing all of the other things like volunteering and competing
  • Before you start have an honest conversation with the firm about what you want
  • As you get close to the end touch base to see how it is all going
Check out your local law institute or law student society website to see what other things might be able to fix in to your schedule so as not to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Paul Melican
President Australian Law Students’ Society




Please see below, the ALSA Executive & Committee for the 2015-2016 term.

Paul Melican
Cassandra Page
Vice President (Administration)
Alex Bell-Rowe
Vice President (Education)
James Zhao
Vice President (Finance)
Andrew Lonergan
2015 Conference Convenor (Hobart)
Andreena Kardamis
Sponsorship Officer
Chris Burch 
Education Officer
Christian Slattery
Competitions Officer
Grace Norris
Marketing Officer
Lachlan Foster
IT Officer
Albert Patajo
Education Officer

Stefanie Fraser
Risk Officer

Jacinta Kenward
Policy Officer
Max Stenstrom
2017 Conference Convenor (Canberra)
Alumni & Scholarships Officer
Lachlan Robb
Careers Officer
Alistair Booth
Immediate Past President
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