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University of New South Wales
Paralegal, Gilbert + Tobin
Bridget studied Bachelor of Arts (Indigenous Studies) and Bachelor of Laws at The University of NSW, 2019 graduate (August intake)
When will you graduate?
I’m graduating in May 2019.
Do you identify with a particular tribe or people?
Wiradjuri, Western NSW.
Where did you grow up? Tell us about your education and employment history.
I was born and grew up in Lithgow, NSW. I attended local public schools and completed my HSC in 2013, placing first in my school year. I was accepted into the dual degree of Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws in 2014. Throughout my degree, I have held national and local student representative positions including the positions of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Student Officer and UNSW Indigenous Officer, while also working part time in roles including as an intern at the Department of Social Services, an Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme tutor at UNSW and as a paralegal through Gilbert + Tobin’s Indigenous Cadetship Program.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I found out about the G+T Cadetship through an older Indigenous law student at UNSW. I delayed applying until my third year of uni for several reasons – mostly because I questioned my ability to work at such a firm . After several years of being hesitant, I decided I would apply. I was successful and was offered a cadetship to start in September 2016. I have been working at the firm part time whilst studying full time ever since (just over two years). I completed a summer clerkship in 2017–18, which led to being offered a graduate position at G+T to start in 2019.
Have you faced any obstacles as an Indigenous student? Has your Indigenous heritage been a factor in your job search and subsequent career? If so, how?
My life experiences and where I come from are what initially inspired me to pursue a career in law. These things have continued to direct me in my decision making throughout my degree and now into my working life. Coming from a small town in western NSW to Sydney – and being in a classroom full of students who were from a totally different life experience to me – was quite challenging at the beginning. However, after finding my feet and focusing on the driving force behind my goals, I was able to achieve what I set out to do.
For me, being an Indigenous woman encapsulates particular values that are an essential part of who I am. They are always a key consideration in my decision making. This has especially been true in choosing to accept my graduate offer at G+T, whose leadership continues to commit to important social justice and community legal issues, particularly concerning Indigenous Australians.
How did you choose your specialisation?
I decided that I wanted to study law after taking a law elective in Year 9. Before that I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor. I realised in that class that in fact, the law is not as black and white as I had presumed it was. I found it exciting and challenging. I liked that there are many grey areas and that it is constantly changing. I realised that it affects everybody's day-to-day life and saw the potential for systemic change to be made in people’s lives through law. This is what changed my mind to study law instead of medicine.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
Following applications, there were two rounds of interviews for G+T’s Indigenous Cadetship. The first interview was with HR and the head of Corporate Social Responsibility, who jointly manage the cadet program. Second round interviews were with two partners; one from Pro Bono and the other from the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. Both interviews were fairly informal and relaxed.
The interview process I went through to obtain the summer clerkship – and consequently my graduate position at G+T – involved three stages. Firstly I completed the online application, which included various short answer questions, my academics, my CV and a cover letter. From there I received a first-round interview and then a second-round interview. A personality test was also completed before the second interview. In the interviews I was asked about who I am, what inspires me, why I wanted to work for G+T and why I thought I would be successful in the firm. I was given scenarios and asked about how I would react, my biggest challenges and best successes, my skills and my values. There was a lot of preparation that went into the whole process (which lasted months). After all of my preparation, I was just honest about who I was, my abilities and my enthusiasm to pursue this career.
What does your employer do?
What are your areas of responsibility?
I assist lawyers with a range of tasks, which can include anything from legal research to compiling folders and reviewing, proofreading or drafting legal and non-legal documents.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
I am currently on a secondment and so a typical work day is arriving around 9.00 am, checking emails to see what has come in overnight and then planning my to-do list of what needs to be completed during the day, in order of urgency. If there is work from the day before, I continue with that; if something urgent comes in, that takes priority. There may be meetings scheduled throughout the day and these have to be factored into deadlines of tasks etc. Lunch is usually a one-hour break around midday. After lunch is often when urgent tasks start coming in from lawyers, so the morning plan needs to be reshuffled. When this happens, I make sure I keep lawyers up to date with where I am at with tasks and let them know when I will have their completed task back to them. The last task I worked on was assisting a lawyer in drafting a submission.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
From here there are endless opportunities; firstly, completing the legal practicing certificate to be able to practice as a solicitor. The opportunity to practice as a young lawyer and learn from some of the best in the country, in areas of law which interest me and align with my long-term goal, is invaluable. In a firm such as G+T, there is the opportunity to work towards promotions such as senior associate or partner, or pursue other paths, such as to study for the bar, start a private practice or pursue legal roles in other companies or organisations. There are also opportunities for career development and education, such as attending conferences, undertaking a secondment or pursuing further postgraduate education.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I would be doing something that requires helping people and their lives. It would most likely be something in relation to advocacy and ensuring people are given the support they need.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the fast-paced work and working to a deadline. It is especially rewarding when you see the hard work you have put in, play a role in ensuring the best outcome for a client. I particularly enjoy that G+T provides its staff with the opportunity to engage in pro bono matters (where there is capacity and opportunity to do so outside of the corporate work that the firm does). The tasks which I enjoy the most are usually the ones where I get to work closely with the matter and directly with the partner or lawyers involved. When given a research task, I am presented with a legal question to investigate and respond to – I enjoy this task the most.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? What are the hours like?
What the clients’ needs are and what is happening at that particular time influences my workload and hours. There are times when working to deadlines inevitably means longer-than-usual hours and other times where there are average hours. Working in a team is definitely a plus for working at G+T. Working in a firm which is fast paced and involves complex legal work (which at times requires working longer hours), is always made better by the fact that I am working with people who are also hard working, easy to get along with and share similar values.