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King & Wood Mallesons

  • #7 in Law
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Ray Aryal

The training provided at KWM is recognised across the legal industry and beyond.

Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)

I was born in Nepal and moved to Sydney with my family at the age of 6. I went to school in the Inner-west where I grew up, before attending UNSW. During most of my undergraduate degree, I worked (almost) full-time in the hospitality industry, where I learned important soft skills, and even got to meet Leonardo DiCaprio!  

Between semesters I would often travel, which has shaped a lot of who I am. The highlight for me is completing an internship in Chengdu, China, at a prominent commercial law firm in the region. I worked with some impressive lawyers, met life-long friends and immersed in the culture. Importantly, it confirmed my decision to become a lawyer.

Before starting at KWM, I worked at a national law firm and undertook some volunteer work, including at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service Australia.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?

I joined KWM as a summer clerk during the summer of 2016/17. I worked as a law clerk throughout 2017 and had the opportunity to go on client secondment to Westpac and Investec. In February 2018, I started as a graduate. Since then I have completed rotations in Public Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity and Corporate & Securities as part of a 6-month secondment to our Hong Kong office. I recently settled in Private Equity at our Sydney office.                                

How did you choose your specialisation (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

As a manager in hospitality, I practised business administration skills whilst overseeing the operation of bars and restaurants. I found the commercial aspects of running a business quite interesting, and this has been the case since I became involved in the family business after high school. Corporate law made sense as it provided a good balance between the commercial and legal.

What does your employer do?

KWM is a leading international, full-service law firm headquartered in Asia.

What are your areas of responsibility?

In any given deal, a junior solicitor will be responsible for the first draft of an agreement or an ancillary document, research, project management, and liaising with/managing relationships with external and internal clients (as multiple teams across the firm are usually involved).   

Can you describe a typical workday? What was the last thing you worked on?

Usually, the day kicks off with a trip to KWM’s in-house cafe, 3*Sixty. The morning coffee run is a great opportunity to catch up with the team while enjoying some incredible views of Sydney. I’ll then review my emails and create a task list for the various matters I am working on. Part of what makes working at KWM exciting is that there is no “typical” workday, and my priorities will often change depending on the client’s needs. One morning last week, we received a call asking us to draft some documents on an urgent basis, meaning what I thought my day would look like five minutes before completely changed. After meeting with my partner, I ended up spending several hours on those documents before jumping back on my other matters.

While some days are more fast-paced than others, there are regular opportunities to take time out and have fun. Tonight, I’ll be playing in an inter-firm ping pong tournament between the private equity team and their long-time rivals, the leveraged finance team. In January, the M&A teams will be competing in the annual summer activity, which has involved everything from billy-carting, creating your own bar, and (of course) more ping pong.

The last thing I worked on was the sale of Australian live events and ticketing business, TEG, to Silver Lake. It was a huge team effort across the firm to close the deal in a tight timeframe.

What are the career prospects with your job? / Where could you or others in your position go from here?

KWM provides a timeframe for career progression and regular performance discussions in which your individual career goals can be discussed. There are plenty of opportunities to go on secondment and gain more insight into the needs of our clients. Earlier this year, a senior associate in our team was seconded to a major private equity firm in Hong Kong. The training provided at KWM is recognised across the legal industry and beyond. External opportunities include working overseas, going in-house, going to the bar, in the public sector, or in other industries entirely.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes. Diversity of background and experiences brings diversity of thought. This is what allows KWM to develop innovative solutions for our clients and be recognised as one of the world’s most innovative law firms.

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

I would probably have become a pilot. I have always been amazed by aircraft, ever since my dad took me plane spotting as a little kid.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

The endless learning opportunities. From the very beginning at KWM, you receive high-quality formal and informal training. For example, as a graduate, you receive formal training under a structured training program as part of your continuing legal education. All lawyers also receive informal on-the-job training/mentoring from senior lawyers who are at the top of their game. This, combined with working on market-leading, innovative and challenging deals, fosters an excellent learning environment.

Because of KWM’s cross-jurisdictional reach, there are also international opportunities. I was given the opportunity to go on a 6-month secondment to KWM’s Hong Kong office, where I worked in Corporate & Securities. Working with some of the best in the Hong Kong market and immersing in the work culture there was rewarding. I gained insight into client expectations and challenges across jurisdictions. Another benefit is picking up skills by learning from the best practice approaches in other offices. For example, while liaising with counsel in New York, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and Australia during negotiation of transaction documents, I witnessed different approaches to drafting across jurisdictions. By combining this with my experience in Sydney, I was able to hone my drafting skills.

I enjoy tasks where I am given a high level of responsibility. Whilst it’s challenging and daunting at times, it is very rewarding. It motivates me to take ownership and perform at a higher level and allows me to feel like a contributing member of the team.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are stress levels high?

As a junior lawyer, you do not have much control over your workflow. The nature of private equity also means that deals usually move very quickly and with strict deadlines. When closing a deal, you will often have to work long hours and under high pressure. This is often balanced out by down-times in between deals or when there is a slowdown in the market. I’ve found it helps to take advantage of these windows to find time to exercise, go have a drink with your friends, take a holiday or just do nothing! 

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role or even be career-focused.

  • Resilience is key. Failures and rejections are a part of life. It’s how you handle it that matters. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It may be that you are not right for the role, or the role is not right for you. Reward yourself when you do succeed.
  • Take a break. Your career is a marathon, not a race. You can find balance by taking advantage of the times you are not busy, whether that’s by seeing your friends and family, or just by having some down-time.
  • Be curious and adaptive. The legal market is ever-changing. Lawyers must develop new skills through experiences to stay relevant. This is equally relevant to other industries.