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Clayton Utz

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Olivia Barns

Having a workplace with a diversity of culture, experience or thought can only be a good thing as it means you can always learn from someone who sees things differently.

What's your job about?

I am a first-year lawyer, having been admitted last November, and I am currently completing my two-year graduate program. At Clayton Utz, we work closely in specialty teams, or practice areas as we call them, with each team specialising in a different area of the law. At the moment, I am working in the Corporate M&A and Capital Markets team.

As a junior lawyer, my role is to support the team. This could be anything from drafting a letter, completing research, making phone calls to Government Departments or ASIC, sitting in on telephone conferences or attending meetings. In Corporate we work on transactions, so the work is determined by the nature of the transaction. This could mean we are working with oil and gas companies or tech companies, for example, to help them get a project up and running, or to be listed on ASX.

What's your background?

I loved school and was very involved in school activities - being at school is a great opportunity to try things, even if you're not the sportiest or musically talented! When I left school I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I decided to enrol in an Arts degree where I could take some time to figure out what I was interested in. I thought about some of the subjects I liked at school, being English and Political Science, and decided to start there. 

During the Arts degree, I tried different units including Media, Criminology, Modern History and Asian Studies, so that I could figure out what I liked most. At the end of the degree, I realised that the law was a natural progression from English and Political Science, and decided to give it a go. I wasn't set on becoming a lawyer until six months into the degree when I realised how interesting I found it. 

I am naturally curious and have an analytical mind, so the law grabbed my interest early on. Whilst I was completing my law degree, I went on a six-month exchange to Stockholm in Sweden. I studied at Stockholm University with students from all around the world. I immersed myself in Swedish culture (and the freezing cold Swedish winter) and even learnt some of the languages. During my studies, I always made sure I had a part-time job. Initially, I was working at Boost Juice, but after starting law I decided to apply for legal jobs. This started as a legal secretary role, until later when I applied for a paralegal position at Clayton Utz. This gave me a really good insight into life as a lawyer. 

I got my current position by completing a summer clerkship at Clayton Utz. This is a four-week internship where you get the opportunity to work in two different teams within the office and immerse yourself in the office culture. Prior to the clerkship, I had been working as a paralegal at Clayton Utz. I have been working at the firm for two years with one year in my current role as a Lawyer. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Having a workplace with a diversity of culture, experience or thought can only be a good thing as it means you can always learn from someone who sees things differently. Having said that, the only requirement for lawyers is a law degree.

Some important characteristics of being a good lawyer include strong written and verbal communication skills. As lawyers, we provide legal advice to people who often don't have an understanding of the law. Therefore, it is important that we can communicate our advice to them in a way they can easily understand. Further, it is important that this advice is accurate, so lawyers need good attention to detail to ensure we aren't making mistakes. Finally, lawyers need to be able to look at things from different perspectives, so it also helps to be able to analyse and think critically. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The best part of my job is working with such great people! Each time I action a task, I get the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest people in the profession, who are also some of the most supportive. Even though my job can be challenging, particularly as I am still learning, I get the opportunity to work alongside people that are helpful and inspiring. Apart from this, we have pretty cool code names for when we are working on top-secret transactions! In the past, we have had Project Dragon and even Project Bee Sting! 

What are the limitations of your job?

Being a lawyer has its challenges. There are often tight deadlines to meet, and often you are working under a high amount of pressure, so you need to be aware it's not a fixed 9.00 am to 5.00 pm job. This can be hard, particularly when you are starting out as you aren't used to working in this way. As lawyers, we also have to be accountable for our time. This can be quite stressful when you are junior as you can become self-conscious of how long a particular task may be taking you. Despite this, we are surrounded by support from all different levels, and our colleagues are great about checking in on our capacity to ensure we are managing our priorities effectively.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. You don't need to have all the answers right now. There can be a lot of pressure to know what you want to do after school, but my advice would be to take some time to learn new things and navigate your interests before committing to a set path. In the end, trying different things will only make you a more diverse and educated person. 
  2. Have a part-time job. This is a great way to get some life experience, learn new skills and make friends! Having a part-time job in the field you are interested in is also a great way to introduce yourself to how it looks in the real world and to test whether it is right for you or not. But even if you can't find a job in the workforce you are interested in, any skills you learn at your job will be helpful later down the track. This could mean learning to communicate with people on the phone or in the office, or learning good time management and organisation skills. 
  3. Make the most of international opportunities and step out of your comfort zone! If your university offers international exchanges - go. You will never get the opportunity to live in another country as a student outside of university. And it is a fantastic way to travel, learn more about yourself and make fantastic memories.