Junior lawyer: ‘Will spending a year backpacking in Australia kill my career?’

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I’ve got the travel itch

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one junior lawyer is worried their plans to spend a year backpacking around Australia will do irreversible harm to their legal career.

“I’m about to go into my second year of PQE having qualified as a solicitor in January 2021 with a specialism in children/family law. However, I’ve always had a travel itch that I haven’t been able to scratch. I wanted to travel after my law degree but then I was worried about the impact it would have on my LPC so I put it off intending to go afterwards. Then I was (very fortunately) offered a training contract which I couldn’t turn down. So now I’ve waited until I’ve qualified BUT now I’m worried that a year/two year career break backpacking around Australia would be career suicide and it would be incredibly difficult for me to get back into law when (if) I return.”

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Might set you back a bit, but I say go for it. Life is short.


Tired 5 PQE

Go for it. Law is shit



How come?



Any international secondments up for grabs at your firm? Might be an option to scratch the travel itch



In child/family law? How many international firms do you know of that do that area?!?



I’d gladly employ someone who chose to spend a backpacking year experiencing a different, challenging culture (say somewhere like India, Japan, or Bolivia). But not someone who chose somewhere that’s a bit like Swindon, but with sunshine and beaches.


Thicc brain

Have you ever been to Australia you dong? Maybe you should visit one day to see just how immense, beautiful and varied that continent-sized country is.

Swindon with beaches lmao, you’re utterly clueless. 😀



Yes I have, you dong. Fully accept your criticism of my “Swindon with beaches” analogy. On reflection, it’s a bit more like Staines or Croydon.



Yes, Thicc brain, I have. And I fully accept your criticism of my “Swindon with beaches” analogy. On reflection, it’s more like Staines, or East Croydon.



Why did you reply twice, with effectively the same comment?



Apologies. My first comment was marked as “awaiting moderation”, and then it disappeared. I reposted the same comment, minus the “you dong” jibe, which I suspected might have caused my comment to be rejected.


Because he’s a pinhead?

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Maybe you should visit one day to see just how immense, beautiful and varied that continent-sized country is.”

Sorry to break it to you fella, but it’s an ISLAND.


Plz use cranium, thx

How is this relevant? It’s a continent, consisting of Australia and a number of other islands. Open an atlas sometime, the stuff you’ll learn might surprise you.


challenging culture

oh yah really found myself on my gap yah in indyah



You should absolutely go – sooner rather than later. You have worked hard to qualify, and this career is something you will always have. Do not miss the opportunity to travel and see the world whilst you are able, as you never know what might happen in the future to prevent you from going.

You will gain so much during your time away. Sometimes it might feel like there is never a right time to do something, but if you wait, you might never go. You’re at the beginning of a great career, and you have the opportunity to leave before you have a great deal of responsibility. It will still all be here when you get back. Go and have fun.


Don't be rash about your rash

Have you seen a doctor for that?



Go for it whilst you can.

I was in a mad rush to climb the ladder. At 35 and prevented from travelling by mortgage, kids, partnership loan repayments etc I realise the rush was unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and wouldn’t change it, but no one will give a toss if you get made up a couple of years earlier than you otherwise would have.



Judging by the practice area you’re in, you’ve already killed your career. Enjoy Australia!



Kill your career? Probably not. Kill you? Well, we are talking about Australia after all.



Definitely if you get eaten by an emu out there!


Forever Associate

Go explore all 365 days if you can. In your final moments you’ll be more likely to remember that year than how much you billed.

If you’re worried about being out of touch professionally, maybe just keep up to date with any case law developments every now and then, and post the occasional legal brief on your LinkedIn to show any connected colleagues and clients you haven’t completely checked out.



I know a few people who’ve done this – none of them have ever decided to come back to law after doing it!



It won’t kill your career.

You will develop skills as a person, learn a lot about yourself, possibly even find a different career path!

If you don’t go now, when will you go?

There is never the perfect time.

But life throws various rocks at you and you have to learn to deal with these.

So, if you can, go now!!!



I work at a big international firm and I would say about 50% of the people I work with (0-5 PQE) have spent a year abroad in one form or another – certainly no career damage done. Lawyers are in demand all the time especially at the 2-5 PQE level so you’re not killing your career at all. If anything, on your return it might look good because it’ll show you’ve got it out of your system and are not likely to ask for a long leave of absence again when you start! I think go for it – maybe have a candid chat with your current firm about your plans and ask if they’ll hold your job open for you. I think firms are much more open to these things these days.


Down Udder

Do it. I’ve taken some kind of break every 3-4 years of my career (not all 12 month backpacking, but a break in some form) and it’s saved my sanity. Echoing what’s above – life’s short, Australia’s great, and you have runs on the board that means you’ll get a job when you get back. Do it and don’t look back



If you don’t do it now, you are unlikely to get the chance before you retire. It is not going to get easier. Couldn’t you maybe get a short stint as a paralegal or equivalent over there? There have been, though fewer now, lots of antipodeans working in local authority children depts. I’m not sure in principle the law is very different. Equally, the different perspective you could bring, would be something interesting to add to your CV for your return.


Piggy Wight Woo 🐷

Do it! And visit some Courts while you’re at it.

Wigs can still be seen in certain states over there!


Bunty Beano

Typical snowflake millennial who can’t stand hard work.



ES to go to 100k soon


Detroit Techno

If he/she was an associate with a large firm with well-structured career development plans, where everyone knows everyone, etc. the answer would be trickier and I personally wouldn’t do it, but what the heck? Children and family law…doesn’t sound like a high-flying career anyways where anyone will be overtly concerned with this person disappearing for one year.



Life isn’t a race. Do it.



I’m on the recruitment team at a top UZ firm and I would be more likely to hire you given your wider perspective on the world and llife


7PQE US Firm

I wouldn’t do it.

Appreciate my situation is V different to a junior and I’m at much more ease talking, but, knowing what I know now, I would start my career with no interruptions until 3-4 PQE.

After COVID with flex working being (or, for some ignorant firms in the next few years: becoming) the norm, I would wait until you’ve earned the credibility by working hard and good. Then start travelling non stop while “working from home” after a few years. Don’t get me wrong: you’ll still be *working*, and unless you want to get fired, you need that discipline. But ive been travelling literally every other week for the last 2 years, accepting to work during day time but being able to explore new countries at night and weekends. No one questions my whereabouts because I’m responsive and sufficiently senior.



Go for it, the longer you wait the more inconvenient travelling will become. You will not regret it



100% go for it rather than regretting it and waiting until you have too much responsibility. Law will wait but life only gets more complicated. I wish I had been bold enough to do it before/earlier in my career. 2 PQE is the perfect time to have a refresh also, as you’re junior enough to just slip back into a firm when you return; I’m 4 PQE now with a mortgage and responsibilities that mean it feels more plausible to move abroad than it is to ‘travel’ for a year.

You will never regret these decisions, and those that say you will are too trapped in the mindset we all started with in this career. The careers we have chosen already ask and take a lot, whether you enjoy it or not… you’ll come to realise in life that 365 days is hardly anything.


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