Where did you grow up?
My parents couldn't decide where to live, so I've been back and forth between England and Australia. I was born in Sydney, then lived in England for six years and have been back in Brisbane ever since.
As a consequence, some of my primary school years were spent in the UK before we settled in Brisbane. At Kenmore State High School, I completed the German Immersion program, where all my classes (except English) were in German! As part of the program, I spent six weeks in Germany on exchange. In Year Ten, to save money for my trip to Germany, I started working at McDonald's. Little did I know, it was a job that I would keep until almost the end of university!
My favourite subjects in high school were Geography and Legal Studies. With no idea what career I wanted to pursue, I thought I may as well continue studying geography and law at university.
How did you get to your current job position?
Over the course of my five-and-a-half-year dual degree, I made a big effort to try to get legal experience, as it was the degree I found much harder out of the two, and I wanted to be 100% sure about continuing with it. Alongside my seven-year McDonald's career, I managed to slot in some legal experience too. I started at a small suburban intellectual property firm; then managed to get a position at a boutique CBD firm; a large Brisbane firm; and, ultimately, became a paralegal at Allens. I started as a paralegal in the Real Estate team in February 2018, and worked there until I started as a graduate in the Disputes & Investigations team in February 2019.
How did you choose your specialisation?
I was keen to join the Disputes & Investigations team, as I enjoy the challenging and varied nature of the work. Getting to the bottom of how and why things have gone wrong, as well as strategising for the best outcome, are things I really enjoy. Unlike being in a team that spend most of their time in the office, I was also attracted to the prospect of spending time in court, and other settings where you get hands-on experience. No two disputes are the same and I really enjoy the variety that comes with that.
What was your interview process like?
I like talking about myself, so interviews are something I quite enjoy! I found the interview process at Allens to be more like a conversation and fairly relaxed. I remember feeling that the interviewers were genuinely interested in me as a person and had clearly made an effort to read through my application in detail beforehand. As part of the interview process, I was assigned a buddy who was a graduate and I had coffee with them afterwards. This was a great way to finish off the interview, as it gave me an opportunity to really pick the brains of someone who was just ahead of me in their career and could give real insights into day-to-day life.
What does your employer do?
Allens is a leading international commercial law firm. A market leader in the legal industry, the firm works with both new and established companies on complex, and frequently high-profile, transactions and disputes.
What are your areas of responsibility?
My areas of responsibility have varied over the course of the year, depending on what matters I have been working on. I am often responsible for the first draft of documents, from letters, to advices, settlement deeds, and everything in between! In the big matters I have worked on, I have been responsible for a lot of the administrative tasks, like arranging meetings, maintaining task lists and monitoring deadlines. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time liaising with our Integrated Legal Solutions (ILS) to discuss strategies for locating, reviewing and producing documents.
Can you describe a typical workday?
The first thing I do when I arrive at work is check any emails I have received overnight. I keep my inbox as a working to-do list and often try knock over some of the lingering tasks first thing in the morning while I'm fresh and have limited distractions. Once everyone has arrived for the day, I duck out for a coffee run with colleagues to our favourite coffee institution (which has three-dollar coffee and free mini muffins!). The rest of the day varies considerably, depending on what I am working on. At the moment, I am working on a commission of inquiry that has kept me busy for the past three to four months. As part of that work, I spend a considerable amount of my day liaising with the senior associate who is running the file, as well as the ILS team, to make sure we are on track to meet any production deadlines. On days where everything is under control, I will go for a midday run along the river, and I try do this at least twice a week. I have started a bad habit of getting an afternoon piccolo, which powers me through until I finish.
What are the career prospects with your job?
There are a multitude of career options once you have a grounding in a law firm. The high-quality training and skillset you develop set you apart irrespective of what you ultimately end up doing. As a lawyer, the options are endless. There is the conventional pathway in a law firm, with exciting opportunities available internally, interstate and also overseas. The more academically inclined (not me), may ultimately end up back at university or at the bar. Others look for a more commercial role, and end up working in-house or as a consultant. Or, of course, you could enter politics and become PM.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Coming from a family with no legal background, and having no connections in the legal industry and no private school education, I feel sufficiently qualified to say that absolutely anyone can become a lawyer if they want to be. Law firms like Allens are increasingly realising the importance of diversity in the workplace. Different backgrounds bring differing experiences that complement being in a profession that does a wide range of work for all different types of clients. So, in short, don't let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you want to do – whether it's being a lawyer or something more exciting!
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I like to think I would be a professional soccer player. More realistically, I was considering prolonging my university life (and the amazingly long holidays) to do further studies in geography. I quickly realised that six years at university was enough for me, though!
What do you love the most about your job?
I have always strived to find a career where I will be constantly challenged to succeed. Since commencing at Allens, I have come to appreciate that there is no typical day in the office. Lawyers would not exist were it not for unique and difficult legal issues, and the opportunity to solve complex problems is something that I find particularly exciting. Moreover, in a similar vein to enjoying a different breakfast each day of the week, I have come to realise that I have a personality that thrives on variety. In my time working at Allens, I have never had a day where I have known exactly what could come across my desk and this is something that I find extremely exciting.
As part of the Disputes team, I enjoy seeing the fruit of my labour. So, for me, a highlight is attending court, a hearing or a client meeting, after getting familiar with a matter through research, document review or other means. I find it very satisfying seeing the end product of hard work and also understanding how a legal problem is dealt with in different contexts.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job?
Working on complex matters means that sometimes there are fluctuations in the hours I work. Occasionally, the time pressure is higher than normal, but Allens is really good at managing these periods and making sure enough people are working on the matter to get the job done. You always feel supported in the work you're required to do and can always ask for help. A common feeling among my colleagues is that busy times feel the most rewarding, because you are working hard to get something over the line and often given a lot of responsibility to do so.
In terms of stress levels, I think it really varies. I have found that I am never even remotely close to the stress levels I had before exams at university! I have often reflected on why this is, and I think it's the fact that everyone is working together as a team and you can always put your hand up to get help when workloads are becoming unmanageable.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?