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Dana Harding studied a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and is a lawyer at Allens.
What's your name and job title?
Dana Harding – Lawyer
What did you study? When did you graduate?
I completed a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Deakin University in 2017.
Where did you grow up? What have been some important stages of your life in regards to your schooling, education, experience abroad, jobs and so forth?
I grew up and completed my schooling in Melbourne.
I went through most of high school wanting to be a vet but had also considered pursuing a career in law. It wasn't until I got to university that I really decided I wanted to be a lawyer. My university experience provided me with exposure to the law and the legal profession and solidified my choice to become a lawyer.
Being involved with university clubs and societies led me to take on governance roles within not-for-profits and my university, and developed my interest in corporate governance.
While at university, I spent some time interning and studying in Shanghai. I met wonderful people while abroad, and being immersed in Chinese culture was incredibly eye-opening. It was fascinating to see the different ways business operates across cultures and how it informs transactions spanning international borders.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I joined Allens as a graduate in 2018 after completing a clerkship in June 2017 and am now in my second year at the firm.
Allens recruits the majority of its graduates through its clerkship process. Penultimate year students are able to apply for a clerkship, which provides students with fantastic exposure as to what it is like in our firm and the kind of work we do. Once a student has completed a clerkship, they are eligible to be considered for a graduate position with the firm.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
I spent my graduate year in Allens' Tax team, before rotating into the Mergers and Acquisitions and Capital Markets (MAC) team.
I chose to do my graduate year in tax, as I had enjoyed studying tax at university and had also clerked in the Allens Tax team. I also thought that tax would be a great area in which to start my career, as it is such an essential area of law and impacts so many of our clients. While in this team, I worked on a range of matters from ATO audits and disputes, through superannuation and non-executive director share rights plans.
For my second rotation, I wanted to try a more transactional team. My choice of MAC was informed by my desire to work on the sale and purchase of businesses, but also my own experience sitting on boards and my interest in corporate governance.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
My Allens interview was really friendly and conversational. My interviewers asked questions about my experiences working and studying, and my interests outside of work.
Through these questions, we also talked about things like my experience working with teams and what skills I had developed throughout my various roles.
What does your employer do?
Allens is a leading international law firm with offices throughout Australia and Asia. We have clients from all over the world and across a huge number of industries. We work on complex, multifaceted and innovative matters and have some of the world's longest ongoing client relationships.
Our strategic alliance with Linklaters makes us the only firm in Australia and Asia to have a working relationship with a UK 'Magic Circle' firm.
What are your areas of responsibility?
Managing the day-to-day relationships with clients, and project managing smaller matters to ensure they are progressing on time. Often I will be the person writing the first draft of an advice or agreement.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
One of the great things with my role is that the work I do changes regularly.
Recently, I have drafted a board conflict of interest policy and prepared an advice for a pro bono client on the best entity structure for their charity. In both of these matters, I liaised directly with the client to prepare a product that met their needs.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
As a lawyer at Allens, you have a world of opportunities open to you. Our alliance with Linklaters means there are opportunities for international secondments to Linklaters offices around the world, in places like London, Hong Kong and Singapore. With the training and experiences of an Allens lawyer, it's also possible to move laterally or into industry.
Allens also has a strong career framework, which enables lawyers to progress their careers within the firm, by setting benchmarks and encouraging conversations between lawyers and their performance coaches.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely! Diverse backgrounds and experiences bring unique skills and talents, enable the entire team to develop innovative solutions to suit our client needs and foster a supportive firm culture.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I hadn't become a lawyer I probably would have become a vet!
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love the diverse range of work that comes across my desk and the brilliant people with whom I have an opportunity to work.
One day I could be advising a client on corporate governance, and the next I will be assisting on a multimillion-dollar business acquisition. So much of our work is a team effort – with other lawyers, the client or their advisers – and it is immensely rewarding when you all work together to reach the best outcome for the client.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
It can be difficult to plan your workflow, as matters have different life cycles and, at times, you can alternate from being quiet to busy in a matter of hours. In response to this, it is important to manage your time as best you can, by progressing non-urgent work and building in time for yourself (like getting to the gym on your lunch break or catching up with friends).
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
- Say 'yes' when an opportunity presents itself. Whether it's getting involved in a club or society at university, applying for a job or volunteering for something you're passionate about, it is all great experience and you may find a new area of interest!
- Be confident in your skills and interests. When applying for jobs or clerkships, choose places that align with those skills and interests, regardless of whether you think you will be accepted.
- Enjoy university and don't rush. You will be in the workforce for a long time, so enjoy those long holidays and travel!