June 5, 2020 8:52 am
The life of a lawyer in Australia can be very dynamic, with each day being different to the last. For this reason, lawyers must be adaptable, willing and able to undertake a multitude of duties, often at short notice. So, what would a typical day look like for a lawyer?
A lawyer’s daily schedule will depend a lot on the specific field in which they work. For example, someone engaged in copyright law will likely have different responsibilities to someone engaged in criminal, commercial or insurance law.
Despite what one sees on TV shows such as ‘Law & Order’, where lawyers engage in verbal tussles with judges in courtrooms, a lot of time will be spent on paperwork – even for those lawyers involved in criminal matters – or on meetings with clients and colleagues.
Starting the day
Many lawyers choose to start their day early, before phones are ringing, the office is too busy, and clients arrive, in order to plan or catch up on reading and correspondence. This is especially important if time will later be spent away from the office or if complex cases need to be handled.
Once business hours begin, a lawyer’s day can become increasingly busy. Organisation is therefore paramount to ensure that all tasks are completed in a timely and thorough manner. However, many issues or new responsibilities can appear suddenly, putting carefully laid plans in disarray.
Clients are the main priority for any lawyer, often with varying and complex requirements. If a lawyer is employed at a large firm, it is possible that many tasks will be delegated to assistants or paralegals, while for smaller firms, a lawyer may take on extra duties, such as marketing or acquiring new clients.
Much time and effort will generally be spent attending to clients’ needs, either with phone calls, meetings, or the preparation of documents. As lawyers are the public face of a law firm, their relationships with their clients are paramount to a firm’s success, and unexpected calls or emails from clients are a common occurrence.
Paperwork and research
The amount of paperwork needing to be completed will depend on the lawyer’s specialisation and size of the firm for which they work. For example, lawyers dealing with deeds, wills, trusts or involved in negotiating settlements, mortgages or leases will have specific documents to prepare, often using templates. Also, paralegals will often undertake much of the work for the preparation of legal documents.
Likewise, research is a necessary step for all lawyers, no matter their field. But due to the advancement of digital processes, while much time used to be spent examining law textbooks for statutes and precedents, a lot of this work can now be done online.
As laws are constantly changing, lawyers need to ensure they are up to date with their knowledge and accreditation. Therefore, education will be an important and continuing part of their professional life. Other duties may relate to the training and support of less experienced lawyers, or for those lawyers who need to appear in court, preparing arguments, documents, evidence, witnesses, and briefing clients and other interested parties.
Lawyers sometimes need to put in more than eight hours per day, as some work may need to be attended to immediately, no matter the time. Importantly, good lawyers also need time away from work, in order to rest, reflect, and be in a good physical and mental state for what can be a challenging but also highly rewarding profession.