Blake Connell, Graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills
A day in the life of…

Graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills

Blake Connell studied a Juris Doctor degree at University of Melbourne in 2016, and is now a Graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills.

7:30 AM

I would love to claim that I start my day at 5:00am with a chia smoothie and a harbour run, but I’m more of a night owl. I take every last minute of sleep I can then grab breakfast on the go.

8:30 AM

Sitting at my desk. Even as a junior, it’s not unusual to arrive to an inbox full of new emails – not only from colleagues who’ve been working late last night, but from international clients too. Into the abyss I go… A Chinese client wants to close their Australian subsidiary. A US client wants to know the status of their trademark application. The emails are diverse but working with international clients is a fascinating way to see different corporate cultures from around the world and to be exposed to the laws of other jurisdictions.

9:30 AM

Was getting into the swing of things on the computer, but we have a video conference with a US client – on their side of the world, they’re getting ready to head home for the day, so off we trot. The screen comes to life and before long, a cacophony of New York accents fills the room. 

10:30 AM

About to sit back down to finish off those emails but my partner grabs me at the last minute – he wants to demo a new app to a client. As my team’s resident IT go-to guy, I’ve been tasked with all kinds of tech-related tasks since I started here – from helping to build legal apps to writing articles on bitcoin to helping design an internal microsite. The emails will have to wait. I shake the dust off my suitcoat and we zip through the CBD to  the client’s office. 

11:00 AM

Client’s office and I’m there to take care of everything vaguely tech-related. This means everything from setting up the AV to giving a live demo of the app. Ironically, it’s the first task that threatens to bring me undone, but at the eleventh hour it comes together. Client presentation goes off without a hitch. Business Development (or “BD”) tasks like these are my favourite part of the job so far and it’s always rewarding to interact directly with a client as a junior. 

12:00 PM

I know those emails are still sitting there, but I also know the firm’s mixed netball team is up against the team that beat us in last year’s final. So, in solidarity, I pass by Domain Gardens to don the Goal Shooter bib. We tell ourselves that it’s just for fun… but I don’t think corporate legal professionals are capable of doing anything “just for fun”.

(Of course it’s beside the point, but just so you know, we won.)

1:00 PM

Lunchtime! It’s a great opportunity to meet lawyers from different teams and hear about what else is going on in the firm. Within a global firm such as ours, there is so much happening at any one time, and this quickly becomes clear over lunchtime conversation. 

1:30 PM

Those emails need answering now. I finish off the last of them, and then get onto a backlog of work I’ve got piled up. Most of the work I do as a junior revolves around reading, researching, managing correspondence and reviewing (and re-reviewing) drafts, but I also get to take the first crack at basic drafting tasks from time to time. As I am in a regulatory team (versus a transactional or litigious team), we generally deal with a greater number of smaller matters. One of my tasks (and challenges) as a junior is keeping track of all the matters going on and helping team members respond to deadlines.

3:00 PM

Mentoring coffee with a manager in my team. We discuss what I’ve been up to recently, what I am finding challenging and what other kinds of work I would like to do before the end of my “rotation” (at Herbert Smith Freehills, all grads do three rotations of six months in three different teams). I am currently in my second rotation in our Sydney office, and actually did my first rotation in the Melbourne office. The opportunity to work between two offices has been a great opportunity to experience two cities and two offices all with the same employer. But as an out-of-towner, it’s great to have an honest sounding board within my own team who knows the ropes and can help me get the most out of my rotation experience. 

4:00 PM

Back to the desk. Churning through that backlog of reviewing and writing tasks. That said, more emails are trickling in so I’m not sure my to-do list is getting any shorter. Today’s deadlines have been met – that’s the important thing. 

6:00 PM

Once I get through my “billables” (essentially, the work for clients we get paid to do), I get to turn my mind to BD tasks. I have an app-building task and an article. It’s a bit too late to weave anything intelligible together, so I opt to do some tinkering on the app. It’s definitely not the traditional kind of work you would see in a law firm, but increasingly technology is playing a bigger part in legal practice – both in terms of the types of solutions we offer to clients (i.e. how we do legal work), as well as the kind of problems which clients face (i.e. what the law governs). This is creating all types of interesting opportunities for juniors like me.

8:30 PM

I am home and on the couch by 8:30pm watching Channel 10’s latest reality television show.

9:30 PM

I was starting to shut my eyes to the sound of Osher Gunsberg’s hypnotic voice, so I ply myself off the couch and start getting ready for bed.

10:30 PM

Bedtime. Trying to avoid the lure of watching a show on my laptop or reading articles on my iPhone. 

11:30 PM

Oops it didn’t work. I’ve been stuck in a black hole of AFR articles, Buzzfeed listicles about Hollywood celebrities and techy YouTube videos. I snap out of it and look at the clock. Bed time. I mean it this time.

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