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University of Sydney
Clerk + Graduate Program Manager, Gilbert + Tobin
Kristie studied Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) at The University of Sydney, 2000
What does your company do? Why is it employing graduate students?
Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) is an Australian law firm, advising clients on their most significant corporate transactions, regulatory matters and disputes. Law graduates are a pivotal part of our talent pipeline!
What qualifications do students need to have?
Students need to have a Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor.
What should graduates be aware of in regards to having a career in this sector and at G+T specifically?
Private practice isn’t a nine-to-five type of career, so it’s not for everyone. At the same time, the work can be incredibly stimulating; our lawyers work on some of the largest cutting-edge transactions in Australia. G+T is a firm that will challenge your thinking and stretch your abilities. For graduates just starting their legal career, it’s an exciting place to work.
What interview formats do you use?
The format will depend on which of our pathways you are pursuing and with which office. For paralegals and seasonal clerks, the face-to-face interview may form just one part of the selection process. We have also used video interviews; ability and personality assessments; and individual and group activities.
Our face-to-face interviews tend to be somewhat informal, but still incorporate competency and behavioural-based questions. We find candidates always present best when they feel relaxed and can be themselves. It’s our goal to engage candidates in an authentic conversation, rather than one in which they are projecting what it is they think we are looking for.
What advice would you give to jobseekers applying for jobs in this sector?
Educate yourself on the process and requirements early on so you are well prepared ahead of application season. Don’t underestimate the value of attending careers events; it can feel time consuming and repetitive (especially where career fairs are concerned), however engaging with firms and building a profile can benefit you in the long run. Don’t take a casual approach or figure you’ll just ‘wing it’ – it will show. Practise, practise, practise.
What sort of skills does a graduate require to succeed at G+T?
The key skills of people who thrive at G+T include creativity; project management skills; the ability to build positive working relationships within and between different teams; and the ability to exercise a confident and thoughtful approach to solving complex problems. A lot of these skills will develop with experience, so having a natural curiosity and a willingness to ‘roll up your sleeves’ for any task at hand, will best position graduates for success.
Are there any personal attributes that you look for?
At G+T we look for responsive, dynamic people who align with our firm’s culture and values. We’re not a prescriptive firm when it comes to our people; we invite individuality and diversity. We also hold ambition, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in high regard. Our people are collaborative, dedicated and very passionate – but they enjoy what they do and don’t feel the need to take themselves too seriously. You’ve got to have a sense of humour!
What can graduates expect to do on a day-to-day basis?
Our graduates undertake a formal 12 or 18-month rotation program depending on their location. They work directly with partners and lawyers and are very much actively involved in matters. There will often be research and DD type work to begin with, contract reviews, preparing of summaries, sitting in on client meetings and calls and attending court. Graduates are also encouraged to attempt the first draft of legal documents (eg letters and agreements) and to start developing their delegation skills through supervising paralegals.
What do graduates find to be the best part of their job? Which kind of task do they enjoy the most?
It’s not necessarily a specific task or piece of work, but rather the level of involvement that graduates have in a matter. It’s extremely satisfying when they are given direct exposure to clients or have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to (if not run, with supervision) a matter from start to finish. One of the most common pieces of feedback I hear from our graduates is their surprise at the amount of responsibility they receive at such an early stage of their career. G+T is very much a firm that provides opportunities for those who have the drive and capability to seize them.
Are there any challenges that graduates can expect to face? For example, do they bear a lot of responsibility? Do they have to work on weekends or do frequent overtime?
If graduates haven’t yet had exposure to working in a law firm environment, then adjusting to full-time work and the fast-pace nature can be a challenge initially. Understanding billable hours, the business of law, how to manage competing priorities from multiple people delegating work and so on – these are all part of the graduate learning curve. We have a range of training programs and supports in place to help graduates navigate these.
What sort of training do graduates receive?
G+T’s learning and development offering spans technical legal learning, business development, professional development and legal innovation. We have a structured development program tailored for graduates, which is designed to complement their PLT studies and on-the-job learning that they will undergo in their practice groups. These sessions are facilitated by both external and internal subject-matter experts and are intended to give graduates key skills and foundational knowledge to help them transition into practice as a junior lawyer.
What is the future employment outlook for careers in your sector? How is the field changing?
We have a lot of graduates asking if they will still have a job in ‘X’ years’ time, or whether they will have been replaced by robots. I don’t think they need to worry just yet. Technology is allowing firms to improve efficiencies and better meet client demands, but that also means the demands themselves are changing. At G+T we increasingly use in-house technologies to automate the administrative aspects of legal work, which allows our graduates and junior lawyers to get involved in far more interesting work.
Ongoing disruption also means we’re increasingly looking for people who can bring more than the traditional lawyer skill set. Our clerkship recruitment process is designed to achieve just that, with certain aspects focusing on candidates’ adaptability and creativity, for example.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
- Maintain perspective. It’s very easy to get caught up in the hysteria of clerkship recruitment – positions that are still highly coveted and therefore highly competitive. Whilst it is often the most linear pathway to a graduate position within private practice, a clerkship is certainly not the only way.
- Grow and strengthen your support network, be they family, friends or professional contacts. They will become invaluable at various points throughout your career.
- Don’t wish your life away! It sounds cliché but remember to live in the now. Set goals and make plans, but focus on being present and appreciating where you are at in life at this moment. As someone once said, ‘The days are long, but the years are short’!