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K&L Gates

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Isobelle Martin

Start thinking about the type of person and lawyer you want to be. What do you want to be known for? You can then start working towards achieving this.

Everyone's career starts differently. There is no specific formula for success (or if there is, I don't think I followed it!).

I was finishing off the rite-of-passage semester abroad when I was, somewhat desperately, looking for a job. I had worked for an industry body previously in the industrial relations team but had never worked in a law firm. 

It was pure luck that I found out about a part-time paralegal position at K&L Gates. My first introduction to the firm was via a Skype interview while I was waiting for a bus from Marseille to Nice. It was a unique interview situation, especially since it was pre-COVID-19 and videoconferences were not the norm yet. It is something that my boss and I still speak about today.

I have come to appreciate how important my undergraduate work experience (including the non-legal experience) was in developing key skills that I now use daily. Who would have thought that booking in cake orders as a 17 year old could assist me as a lawyer?

When I started working as a paralegal there was a sharp learning curve with both my knowledge of the practice area and understanding the intricacies of a law firm. I could also finally witness the practical side of some of my law subjects.

After two years as a paralegal, I went through the graduate application process and program. The application process was not as daunting as I built it up to be in my head but it was still challenging. I realised early on that being organised is crucial - you can have a current shell resume and cover letter ready before the graduate program is even advertised.

The second stage of the recruitment process at K&L Gates was a group interview. The best way to describe this is a collaborative problem solving session mingled with some networking. The tasks were as much about your knowledge as they are about your personality and qualities.

The entire process of applying is an invaluable experience because it is very unlikely that we will never go through such a high intensity recruitment process again. It is also an opportunity for graduates to "sell themselves" and work out whether that particular firm is right for them.

During the process, I started to lose sight of the importance of picking a firm that is right for me but when it came time to make a decision, I think that this should be your deciding factor. I can definitively say that K&L Gates is the right firm for me and I think this is reflected by being named a finalist in the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 in the practice area of work health and safety after my supervising partner nominated me. Without the structure of the program, practice areas and general culture of the firm challenging and supporting me, this achievement would not have been possible. 

I know there is a lot of advice out there for current and prospective graduates but to add my two cents, my tips for any graduate or junior are:

  • Start thinking about the type of person and lawyer you want to be. What do you want to be known for? You can then start working towards achieving this. Goal setting is crucial as it keeps you motivated and progressing in your career. My current goal is to be a lawyer who is technically skilled but provides commercial advice to clients in a timely manner. As an employee in the Brisbane office, I want to be someone who is easily approachable and always ready to assist my colleagues.
  • Concentrate on getting the law or facts right first. Remember that there is no expectation that you know everything but if you are uncertain you should always let the supervising lawyer know (otherwise they may rely on your work without thinking twice!).
  • Be proactive and detail-oriented when it comes to any task you are given. You will only get out of any graduate program as much as you put in.
  • There is no such thing as a bad rotation. The whole purpose of rotations is to help graduates work out what areas of law they like (because there is no expectation that you know). If you do a rotation in an area that you cannot see yourself working in, this is actually a positive because you are narrowing the options down.
  • Everything that you learn is a transferable skill that you can put to use in whatever practice area you end up in. I spent eight months outside of the labour, employment and work health and safety team which is where I settled but the skills I learnt in corporate and litigation and dispute resolution have made me a better lawyer.