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Attorney-General's Department (AGD)

  • #9 in Government & public services
  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Charlie Light

6.45 AM

The blaring of my alarm clock forces my eyes open and pulls me out of bed. I make it into the kitchen just before the headlines at 7 am and begin my millennial morning routine: smashed avo on toast while watching ABC News Breakfast. Once again, weatherman Nate’s waistcoat has inspired me to bring my whole self to work, so I put on my happy socks and walk out into the crisp Canberra morning. It’s 2 degrees outside; warm compared to the negative temperatures we had all of last week. Canberra being Canberra, everything is within walking distance so I put on my gloves, tune in to Taylor’s latest album (thank you Folklore) and begin the walk across the lake to work. As I walk past the High Court, I am reminded of where a career in law can take you.

8.30 AM

I arrive at work, say hello to the lovely receptionists on the way in, fill up my water bottle, make my morning cup of tea and make my way to my desk. As a grad, I rotate through 3 different teams during the year and get to move desks each rotation. I’m currently working in the constitutional litigation team, and as I open my email, I once again get to see that the constitutional reality is everywhere.

Overnight, 2 pieces of work have appeared in my inbox. Both of them relate to the implied freedom of political communication and I have been asked to create a research note outlining the point at which communication becomes political communication. The note will ultimately be sent to counsel to assist with our submissions if this makes it to hearing. My favourite part about my job is being asked interesting and novel questions which I have never considered before. 
I hit the books and begin my research. I’m looking through past advices we have prepared, reading various submissions we have made in previous cases and what the most recent High Court authorities have said on this point. It’s a little overwhelming at just how much is out there on the implied freedom, but I’m struggling to find anything which precisely says the point at which communication becomes political communication.

10.00 AM

The clock strikes 10:00 am. It means one thing; coffee. In unison, the other junior lawyers and I all get up from our desks and journey up to the infamous AGS coffee machine. We all have a chat about what we’re working on while we make a coffee and get some much-needed caffeine. I mention I’m researching an implied freedom issue and am having trouble finding an authority just on point. One of the other junior lawyers informs me she wrote her thesis on the implied freedom and gives me some tips on where to look for my answer. Once again, my morning coffee has saved me in more ways than one.

10.15 AM

I return to my desk and continue working away on my research note. The tip from the other junior lawyer turns out to be exactly what I was after. Caffeinated and on a roll, I begin writing.

11.30 AM

I have been invited to join a phone conference with counsel for a case which is being heard by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia tomorrow. While it’s quite nerve-wracking being on a call with senior counsel, junior counsel and those instructing us, it has been made very clear that if I have anything to add, I just need to speak up. We discuss our submissions more broadly and then discuss how best to approach some of the finer points within our case. I was fortunate enough to have done a research task for this matter, so I get to offer my opinion on one of the questions which is being discussed. We finalise our strategy for tomorrow and work out the logistics of everyone phoning in for the virtual hearing. Despite the year being somewhat disrupted by the pandemic, litigation goes on!

1.00 PM

My stomach lets out a loud growl and I know it’s time for lunch. All of the grads coordinate to take lunch at the same time. We all head to the communal area and have lunch together (while sitting 1.5m apart of course). We take advantage of being grads and take the full hour for lunch.

2.00 PM

It’s time for another legal training session which is run by AGS. Throughout the year, there are numerous training sessions on different areas of law. They are similar to university tutorials and involve a quick lecture from a senior lawyer, followed by some questions and group tasks. Today’s topic is on privilege, immunities and confidential government information. The training is fantastic – it’s full of both junior and senior lawyers who are all here to learn. The training is for all lawyers, not just lawyers from my team, so it’s a great opportunity to meet colleagues from all over AGS. It is also very interesting hearing how lawyers from different teams think and approach the problems we’ve been given. Lawyers from the commercial team think differently from the litigators, who think differently from the advice writers.

4.00 PM

I have my weekly catch up with my supervisor to discuss my progress and how I’m travelling. I show her the research note I’ve spent the day preparing and she provides me with some tips on how I can improve it to make the findings clearer and more succinct. My supervisor is very invested in my development and provides some other tips on how to be the best junior lawyer I can be. It doesn’t take long before our conversation shifts from discussing my performance to friendly banter. I feel very lucky to be supervised by someone who not only wants me to grow professionally but takes the time to get to know me personally too. 
5:15 pm
I finish up for the day, update my to-do list for tomorrow and do a quick round of goodbyes. I make sure I submit all of my time for the day with the appropriate narrations and I begin the walk home.
6:00 pm
Since moving to Canberra, I promised myself that I would be more adventurous and try new things. So tonight we’re off to salsa dancing with some grads from other departments. It’s a great way to end the working day, to meet grads from outside AGS and to switch off from work.