What it does: Provides legal services
Staff stats: Around 350
The good bits: Interesting, important work
The not so good bits: Bureaucratic processes
The NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office story
The history of the NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office (CSO) can be traced back to 1817 when Thomas Wylde was appointed Solicitor for the Crown of the colony of NSW. Today, the CSO operates as a Public Service Executive Agency, headed by the Crown Solicitor, related to the Department of Justice. As such, the CSO’s business initiatives are linked to the Department’s goals and directions in terms of the delivery of quality client services and responsiveness to the needs of the NSW Government and its agencies.
The CSO provides general commercial, or “untied”, legal services to the NSW Government and its agencies. Since the 1990s, the CSO has competed with private law firms for the un tied work. The CSO is on the legal panels of several government departments and agencies.
While the CSO is no longer the sole provider of legal services to the NSW Government, it remains by far the largest, and continues to be the sole provider of legal services that are regarded as being core to government functions. The CSO manages thousands of legal matters each year, many of which involve substantial litigation. It seeks to provide its client agencies with “authoritative, timely, cost-effective and ethical legal solutions”.
The CSO has four legal divisions, and a Corporate Services division that provides administrative and business support to the legal practice groups and clients. The legal divisions incorporate 11 specialist practice groups: Child Protection; Commercial Law; Community Law; Constitutional & Administrative Law; Criminal Law; Employment Law & Industrial Relations; Government Law; Inquiries; Property & Native Title; Torts (Justice/Enforcement Agencies) and Torts (Service/Regulatory Agencies).
The CSO is an equal opportunity employer. Like other NSW Government agencies, it seeks to employ individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, and aims to have a workforce made up of employees of different ages, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, religious belief, work experience, and educational background”. Lea Armstrong, the current NSW Crown Solicitor, is the first woman to be appointed to the role, and the organisation has a high number of women in senior and leadership roles.
The CSO celebrates its diverse community through participation in events such as Harmony Day and National Reconciliation Week. It is developing a diversity framework to support and deliver on its workforce diversity strategy. Key areas of focus are: Indigenous Australians, cultural and linguistic diversity, multi-generational workforce, and disability and accessibility.
Staff at the CSO work on legal matters that are often high profile, with “important social, economic and political implications for the community”. The CSO is a partner in the Office of Environment and Heritage Sustainability Advantage program, which assists organisations across NSW to achieve “increased competitiveness and improved bottom lines through better environmental practices”.
The recruitment process
The NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office recruits law graduates with “impeccable academic track-records and an interest in working on matters of immense public significance”.
Like other public-sector employers, the Crown Solicitor’s Office recruits on the basis of merit. To apply, you’ll need to respond to an ad calling for applicants for the graduate solicitor program. The CSO advertises career opportunities on its website’s current vacancies page and at https://iworkfor.nsw.gov.au/. While individual agencies might tweak it, the standard recruitment process for NSW public service jobs is as follows: if your online application makes it past the initial screening, which may or may not include a brief phone interview, you’ll be invited to do a capability-based assessment. This may involve online tests and work sample tasks such as case studies, role plays and group activities. After this comes either a single panel interview or a series of interviews with assessors.
While being interviewed, you can expect to be asked behaviour-based questions. You’ll also be asked to illustrate how you’ve previously demonstrated the capabilities required for the role. Following this, there are reference checks and usually various forms of screening (e.g. a national criminal record check, citizenship/residency check). If all that goes well, you’ll either be offered a role or placed in a talent pool for similar future vacancies.
The CSO’s graduate program runs for two years and involves four six-month-long rotations across various legal practice groups. Graduate solicitors assist senior solicitors in “the conduct of legal matters (advice, transaction and/or litigation) within a specialist Practice Group to ensure the provision of high quality, cost-effective and client focussed legal services to government”. In the course of doing this, graduates gain real-world experience in advice writing, litigation and transactional work.
Graduates also receive professional training and development, as well as on-the-job training under expert supervision and leadership.
The salary range for graduate solicitors at the CSO is comparable to the private sector. The CSO offers staff a healthy work/life balance and reasonable job security, in addition to benefits such as flexible hours, community, study and parental leave, and access to health and wellbeing programs.
The CSO offers good prospects for advancement, with solicitors having the opportunity to manage a practice relatively early in their careers. It’s straightforward to permanently transfer, or get a secondment to, another practice group. The CSO’s “training and development programs offer a diverse choice of internal and external training and comprehensive opportunities”.
The vibe of the place
At the CSO, you can expect to be part of a dedicated workforce performing challenging, varied, interesting and often high-profile work in an open, sharing and encouraging environment.
From the Employer:
"Do what matters.
As the largest provider of legal services to the NSW Government and its agencies, the CSO offers talented graduates the chance to be involved in some of the State’s most interesting and high-profile legal matters. Our work spans matters as diverse as child protection, constitutional and administrative law, and inquiries and criminal law.
On the two-year graduate program, you’ll complete six-monthly rotations in four practice groups, gaining hands-on experience under the guidance of senior solicitors. As an integral member of a practice group, you‘ll contribute to client and file management while developing specialist legal knowledge. From day one, you’ll be exposed to unique and complex legal issues that will challenge your thinking.
We’ll give you opportunities to develop the necessary skills and experience to become an exceptional solicitor, and provide ongoing training and support to help you reach your full potential, including one-on-one mentoring from senior CSO solicitors.
In return, we ask that you bring an inquiring mind, a passion for learning and collaborating, and a desire to contribute to the State’s wider social, economic and political development."