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Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

  • #1 in Government & public services
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Alice

Don’t pigeon hole yourself into a particular practice area of law. There are so many options as a lawyer, so keep an open-mind and challenge yourself.

Where did you grow up?

I have lived all around different parts of New South Wales, but, predominantly grew up in South-West Sydney. After I completed a Bachelor of Laws/Arts at the University of Western Sydney I moved to Canberra where I was fortunate enough to be accepted into ASIO Corporate Graduate Program.

How did you get your current job? 

I applied for the ASIO Corporate Graduate Program in my final year of university. During the year-long program, I worked in different areas within ASIO’s Legal Services area and was exposed to so many interesting matters that spread across the work of the Organisation

How did you choose your specialisation?

I chose to apply for the Corporate Graduate Program as I enjoyed by legal studies at university and I wanted to pursue a legal career. The Program offered me the opportunity to work in an interesting area of law whilst completing my Graduate Legal Practicing Certificate to become a qualified lawyer. I’ve been in my permanent role for a year now, and looking back, I’m certainly glad I made the decision to come to ASIO.  

What was your interview process like? 

The recruitment process can be lengthy, particularly the process of obtaining a security clearance—although all graduate recruitment processes tend to take some time anyway. The process was what I expected: the initial application, assessments, some interviews (including a security and a psych interview) and, of course, paperwork. The people I dealt with during the process were always professional and helpful. There was nothing unusual and no hidden tests (at least none I’m aware of), it just required a bit of patience and persistence.  

What does your employer do?

ASIO protects Australia, its people and its interests from threats to security through intelligence collection and assessment, and the provision of advice to the Australian Government. ASIO’s legal team are here to enable ASIO to do this lawfully, within Australia’s legal framework.

 What are your areas of responsibility?

As a legal officer, my role is to deliver trusted, accurate, timely and practical legal advice and services to ASIO. This includes providing support to legislative reform relating to operational activities to enable ASIO’s mission. 

Can you describe a typical workday? 

My workday will vary depending on what is going on. Probably similar to other legal roles, on a typical day, I may attend meetings, conduct legal research, draft legal advice and work on legislative reform. There’s always something to do, so it’s definitely a job for someone who enjoys a fast-paced work environment. The last thing I worked on was providing legal advice to support ASIO operational activity. While I can’t divulge what it was about, I can say it’s really cool to be involved in what ASIO does on the ground and to see your work contributing to the end goal.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

Completing the Corporate Graduate Program as a legal graduate does not necessarily mean you are pigeon-holed into a legal career in ASIO forever. There are a number of opportunities for advancement within Legal Services, but also opportunities to move to other areas within ASIO or even more broadly within the National Intelligence Community. I believe the Corporate Graduate Program provided me with a great foundation for wherever I decide to go with my career in the future. 

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

Had I not chosen to come to ASIO, I would likely have pursued a career in private practice or in consulting. I imagine my life would be VERY different had that been the case. While I’m sure there are pros and cons, either way, I’m definitely glad this is the career path I chose. 

Pros and Cons

What do you love the most about your job? 

As an ASIO lawyer, I love being able to see how my day to day work as a lawyer directly impacts and contributes to ASIO’s overall mission.  No two days are the same, so for me, I enjoy the variety and the challenge the job provides. At the same time, I am fortunate to work for an employer who offers flexible working hours.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

Because you are working in the national security space, sometimes being an ASIO lawyer can be quite challenging, as this adds another dimension to navigating legal issues, but it is also very rewarding as you can see the direct impact your work has on the Organisation.  It can be difficult at times because you are not allowed to talk about the work you do or even that you work at ASIO; on the other hand, the plus side of this is that you don’t bring the work home with you!

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  1. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into a particular practice area of law.  There are so many options as a lawyer, so keep an open-mind and challenge yourself. I did not picture myself as a Government lawyer for an Intelligence agency, but, I’m so thankful for the opportunity as it has turned out to be a great experience and the start of hopefully a long and happy career.
  2. If given the opportunity - get involved in extra-curricular activities, it not only gives you a competitive edge in a recruitment round, but, you gain valuable experience!
  3. If you are looking to practice as lawyer, consider a career with ASIO.  The work is diverse, interesting, challenging and unlike any other job.