Should This 18 Year Old Student Study Law in Australia?

Hi there! 

My name is A, and i'm an 18 year old student who just finished her A levels. I didn't perform very well, but by a stroke of luck, I was allowed to enter the University of Tasmania to read Law. 

I'm currently very vexed as to whether or not I should accept UTAS' offer, firstly because of cost. Even with a partial scholarship that I was given, Im estimating a ballpark of SGD$200grand to cover tuition and living costs for me for 4 years. What makes matters worse is that I don't have a father, and my mother's 60 this year, so I'll probably have to bring her along. This effectively raises my costs to roughly around SGD$250grand for 4 years, a sum which is very difficult for me to manage. 

Based on our savings, we currently have around SGD$140grand in cash, with a 5 room flat in the central district of Singapore fully paid for. The idea is to roll by 2 years with the cash we have now, and accumulate around SGD60 grand within those 2 years to tide us by the 3rd and 4th year through rent, or to borrow a small pocket of funds from the bank to tide us through the last few years. 

I am, however, extremely worried that even if I managed decent grades, I would not be able to find employment within Australia either as a lawyer or as a law consultant, because I am, afterall, a 3rd tier foreign citizen. Part of the reason why I applied overseas was because I wished to be able to work in a foreign country after graduation, due to the glut of lawyers in Singapore as well as family issues. 

But given the state of my predicament, what would you suggest to me as my best course of action? Should I take the plunge?  

I appreciate you looking through my query, and I apologise for the length of this email. Please share with me your thoughts, it really would help me alot. 

Hi A,

As I am not familiar with the realms of law I had to seek for help to reply your email. I'll post up the opinions of Satki Yoda (a regular guest blogger here, residing in Brisbane) and Yaya Auntie (auntie living in Perth working as a lawyer), completed with my own unqualified ones.

Satki Yoda
Satki Yoda's comments for you

Ultimately the decision is Amanda's, but i'll try to keep the advice factual and then you can add in whatever wisdom you have Mr. Nix -

First of all, u must understand UTAS positioning as a uni. Within Australia, UTAS is probably not so bad, still passable if you getting a job in Australia. However what works against you is that you want to do law, which is not on the skilled list (which means you probably can't apply for PR or a position in Australia as a foreigner). In fact, there is actually a large oversupply of law grads even for the locals. If u do a quick google, some of the prominent news organizations like ABC and AFR have featured the oversupply in law grads. So even local law grads from the prestigious law schools are finding it hard to get a job, let alone from a "not-so-atas" uni. To make things worse, Tasmania is one of the states that is doing the worst in terms of economic opportunities, so don't expect too much from graduate recruiting in other areas either.

Not being able to apply PR means that you are most likely going to have to return to Singapore after graduation unless you force yourself to do a degree on the skilled list like accounting, and then take your chances and apply for the permanent graduate visa, after which you can pursue your interest in law - but again, this is a huge gamble, and it also depends on whether you really want to do law. if you do, i'd suggest, don't give up the subject and force yourself to do something you dislike for 2-3 years because you end up not excelling in it. It might be better to take the chances and do something you excel in, and stand out so much that you get noticed, etc. This one, is really up to you.

Personally, i know people who did law, but these are mostly locals who can afford to bum around if they can't find a job. Most of them couldn't get law clerkships, only the really outstanding ones or the rich ones whose parents are well-connected, so most of the above average law students end up doing something in between like working for the government or doing tax law - but then they have to fight with graduates from all other disciplines like arts, humanities, economics, commerce etc. Just note that the market here for graduate lawyers is really saturated and flooded. But again, Your interest is important, like i said, if you enjoy it you will excel in it.

Considering that if you probably have to go back to Singapore, you have to consider how status conscious singapore is with degrees - to be perfectly honest, UTAS is going to struggle with prestige. If in the end you see yourself working in Singapore, you will get a lot more bang for your buck going to the UK or Canada to a better / slightly more prestigious uni than UTAS.

Also, another issue, which i may not have that much experience to provide advice on, is how you are going to bring and provide your mum; what is she going to do, and will she even be able to get a visa to come to australia?

What i know is all here, the decision in the end is yours. If you do choose to go, just know it will be damn hell competitive and the odds will be stacked against you. Good luck.

Yaya Auntie
Yaya Auntie's comments for you 
I am not sure what is the cost of fees or tassie' cost of living, except it is Lower than Perth. but the first issue is you will probably be unable to get your mum a long term visa in Australia as you are above 18 and not a minor.

Best case is (to get your mum) to fly in and fly out on a 3 month tourist visa but that adds to cost as flights to and from Tassie can be expensive. A cost you will want to factor in. 
It will be very hard for you to get employment in Australia after you graduate as you does not have PR. You need to check with Uni of Tassie if you will be a lawyer upon graduation or need to do additional training like articles or college of law to become a lawyer. Else, as a law graduate, you will not be able to get PR as you are not a lawyer. By the time you are a lawyer, your time limit of 6 months to apply for PR from graduation would have expired. If PR is what you want I suggest another course like accountancy. But again check with a migration agent or with dept of immigration.

There is also a glut of lawyers in Australia. In Perth only 20% of law graduates get jobs in law firms and go on to be lawyers. Decent grades help but law is still a old boys or girls game. It is who you know. Plus as you do not have PR you are unlikely to get work experience during the holiday and this makes it even harder when you graduate.

I doubt tassie (Tasmania) is better as tassie has the highest youth unemployment in aust.

I would suggest taking a commerce course as not only is it shorter but better PR chance than law.

To clear this cloud of confusion, you need to have clarity in your mind. Only by doing so would you gain the resolve to obtain your goals. When the mind is in a blurred frenzy state, you are likely not to see your path. That is why you are vexed.

My guest advisers had assumed you want to live and work in Australia later in your life, which wasn't strongly indicated in your email. So I will follow their assumption that it is your wish to study in the short term, find work in the mid term and settle down in Australia with your mother in the long term. If this is so, I propose you should come out with a strategy to align these purposes so that you will glide through your path with the least resistance.

You'll need a lot of money, no doubt about it. You have a decent amount of savings, which helps a lot to your cause. A paid up HDB flat also reduces a lot of pressure. Having said that, I'll advise you to read up (in detail) about the current Parent Visa options [link] because this will affect your strategy adversely in many aspect. First, you are not eligible to apply for a Parent Visa only until you gain Permanent Residency in Australia. From there, there are still a short option (3 years wait, cost $43,600 this year) and a long option (cheap but can possibly queue "up to 30 years" - typically takes about 10-15 years normally from my sources) Until your mother has this visa, she will have no medical coverage in Australia and have to fly back or forth Singapore for medical care. That is the main issue.

If your mother is savvy with traveling alone and is generally in good health now, you still have the time to work this out. Else, you may want to consider completing your studies in Singapore, applying your PR (as a family, cost and everything) offshore after working for a few years (and saving up more money) before moving to Australia together. You may have to sacrifice your dreams of being a lawyer for a course that qualifies you to apply for an Australian PR. I'll leave you to decide what is your priority and what is your bigger dream.

If you are still going ahead with flying to Australia to study, with your mother tagging along, then Yaya Auntie has a point in regards to flying costs. It is therefore, unfortunately, you may have to consider boring, boring Perth to study and save you some flying costs. However, I respectfully disagree with Yaya Auntie. Lawyer she may be, savvy with money she may not. 

Unlike a normal student, you are not able to live frugally by bunking up in a school hostel (or renting a room in my house for example) during your few years of studies. You will need a place of your own because your mother is coming along with you. Since house rental is the biggest expenses you will incur (and not air tickets), it is therefore a more feasible option to study in Tasmania or Adelaide. In addition, school fees should be cheaper as compared to universities in NSW or WA. There is nothing to stop you from looking for jobs in other states upon graduation. These are the big money items you should be careful about, not air tickets, unless your mother is the type who will fly back to Singapore to quench a Bak Kut Teh thirst. If you are able to live with the arrangement of living apart with your mother for 3-4 years, you should be able to cope with school hostels costs Australia wide. Again, I'll leave you to decide what are your priorities.

With that, I end my comments. Please feel free to ask if you have any more questions that we can assist you with. You can even vote for your favourite commentor by leaving your choice in the comment box. 

19001126868 - to vote for Satki Yoda
19001126869 - to vote for Yaya Auntie 
19001126970 - to vote for asingaporeanson


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  2. Accountancy and law are boring. Nursing and medical studies are the best bet.

  3. Hi A, is there a reason why you wanna be a lawyer or choose to study in Aust ?

    Given yr limited resources, I will think your chances to graduate with a law degree is higher in SG.

    If you wanna apply for PR and migrate in the future, i will suggest doing a research on the jobs in demand / listed in the SOL & CSOL. Pursue a degree in this field if it is something you can do for the next 4 yrs, you will have 4 yrs working rights after you grad. At current FX rates, 130k AUD is more then sufficient for a decent degree, working part time 20 hrs a week is sufficient for yr living expenses.

    You can easily have 70 points for migration with a Aust degree + 3 yrs working exp + 7 in IELTS, that is without any state nomination. Once yr PR is approved, you can work in any field you choose. How i wish i am in yr shoes :)

  4. Cant comment on cost of living in Tassie or job market now for LLB or in 4-5 years time BUT

    Did you want to read law? or is that a means to make a living

    Did you get an offer to study in SG? In law?

    If the first answer is yes, then it doesn't matter what the rest of the answer is.

    Opportunities come and go but your ability to make use of it becomes less when you get older, with more obligations of life etc.

    Instead of overanalysing like a Temasek analyst on investment and end up being over cautious and over planning, take the chance and do what you really want.

    Who knows what will happen in 5 years? Australia may be in a economic depression, but Singapore may be unliveable for local SG in terms of competition from foreign talents, who knows.

    There is part time work available wherever you go (frankly speaking I think Tasmanians have unrealistic expectations about what work they can get) and you don't have to work as a lawyer initially if you really get stuck.

    Wasted education? No such thing. Working part time elsewhere but doing volunteer legal work in free time (and there is a lot of free time outside salaried part time work) keep you in the loop etc.

    So my advice in short: do what you really want to do, you can't make plans when heavens has already a plan