Alex Virgo K&L Gates Graduate

Alex Virgo

La Trobe University
University of Melbourne
Alex studied a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne and Bachelor of Laws at La Trobe University

Why the law?

When I finished high school I wasn't entirely sure which path I wanted my career to take.  I had always been interested in science and health, but also absolutely loved reading and was interested in humanities and politics.  Ultimately, I decided to study a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Cell and Developmental Biology.

Toward the end of my Science degree, I realised that I was spending far more time reading about the policy and ethical considerations and legal regulations of the scientific research methods we were being taught, instead of actually learning what the methods involved.  Let's just say it was pretty clear that I wasn't destined to spend my working years in a laboratory. 

So, once I finished my Science degree, I made the decision to study law and in December 2017 I completed the Bachelor of Laws (Graduate Entry) at La Trobe University. 

Application, interview and clerkship process at K&L Gates

As a law student I was told over and over again how competitive the legal industry is and how hard it would be to find a job.  This may be true, but I never let this deter me from applying to the firms I was interested in working for. 

I found the interview process at K&L Gates refreshing.  The first round of interviews was with a member of the HR team and senior lawyer and, while a few behavioural questions were thrown around, I felt that they really just wanted to get to know who I was. 

The second round interview was a group interview, but not one of those group interviews you hear horror stories about!  This was less formal and incited collaboration and in depth discussion about all kinds of things, not just the legal problem in front of us.  I actually had a really enjoyable time and am still friends with a couple of people who were in my group.

Next came the clerkship.  I clerked at K&L Gates in the June/July intake and had a really positive experience.  From day one, I learnt that everyone in the firm abides by an open door policy and really wanted to take the time to talk to me about their matters and teach me new concepts.  In the 4 weeks that I was at the firm I really got to taste what it would be like if I was able to come back as a graduate and, looking back now, I can see that I was given the same types of work that a graduate would be expected to do. 

Why K&L Gates?

It may sound cliché, but I chose to come back to K&L Gates as a graduate because of the people.  Not only did I find that everyone was friendly, approachable and down to earth, it was evidently clear that the lawyers at K&L Gates were all extremely passionate about their work. 

It's been almost a year since I started at K&L Gates as a graduate and I can confirm my initial impression was correct.  I am still amazed at the diversity of matters being worked on and everyone's drive to achieve the best results.

Life as a graduate at K&L Gates

The most surprising thing about my graduate year has been how fast it has gone. 

At K&L Gates, graduates rotate through 3 different teams in their first year.  In those 12 months, you meet lots of people, learn a multitude of new skills, take on lots of challenging work and get admitted to practice law. 

I am almost at the end of my third and final rotation in the Labour, Employment and Workplace Safety team.  I have also rotated through the Corporate and Transactional team and Intellectual Property team.

As a junior lawyer, the work you do varies a lot and I definitely don't have a "typical day".  While this can be the most challenging aspect of being a graduate, I really look forward to coming into work in the morning knowing that something completely new will have landed on my desk. 

Some different types of work I have been involved in across each of my rotations include dialling into negotiations with a number of international parties, attending meetings at client's offices, preparing court books and briefs to counsel and other documents for hearings as well as attending a number of mediations, conciliations and hearings and drafting contracts and licences.  

When I'm not doing these things or one of the 3 R's (researching, reading and reviewing), I have found there are plenty of initiatives to get involved in.  I am a member of K&L Gates' LGBTIQ+ alliance INspire and on the committee for K&L Gates Connect, the young professional network that organises networking events for junior lawyers at the firm.  I have also been lucky enough to become involved in a number of pro bono matters, including K&L Gates' Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project which provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of non-consensual pornography.

I can safely say that my graduate year has been the busiest year of my life… and I absolutely love it!

Three pieces of advice I would give to my law student self

  • Meet as many people as possible at university and maintain those relationships.  This will be how you start to build your professional network and, you never know, your university peers may be your colleagues in the future.
  • Keep an open mind and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, even if you feel that you have no experience or are underqualified. 
  • Seek out work that challenges you.  You will learn the most when you are pushed out of your comfort zone.