What's your name and job title?
David Chen – Law graduate.
What did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney and graduated in 2017.
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us about any previous work experience?
I grew up in Strathfield and went to high school at Sydney Boys High School. During high school, I would help out once every weekend at my Dad's workshop – helping him organise stock and other ad hoc tasks.
My first external job was as a clerk in a boutique immigration firm in the city. Since then, I have also worked as an office assistant in an electronics retail store and as a legal clerk in a boutique employment law firm.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I started working at Thomson Geer as part of our clerkship program in 2016. After finishing the clerkship program in early 2017, I was lucky to be able to work as a casual law clerk throughout the year – which was also my final year of university. This arrangement continued until early 2018, when I commenced the current graduate program.
All up, I have been with the firm for around two years and have been a law graduate for a bit less than one year.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
My degree gave me options to work in either commerce or law. Early on in my degree, I always thought that I would graduate and go into finance or some other area related to commerce. After taking courses in both commerce and law, I realised that the law intrigued me much more – particularly the aspect where you had to solve problems by applying the law. From then on, I was set on working in the law.
Within the law, I have not yet chosen my area of specialisation. The Thomson Geer graduate program has, however, given me the opportunity to try two areas of law before committing to a specialisation. My first rotation was in employment law and I am currently working in dispute resolution. During my clerkship, I also got to experience corporate law (along with employment law) specifically within the field of equity markets.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
My interview process with Thomson Geer consisted of two steps: a video submission and a cocktail evening.
The video submission involved me answering a set of questions that pertained to topics including current affairs, economics and developments with the law. Considering that each question was quite short and did not require extensive research to answer, we were given ample time to prepare and submit this video – around two days. Overall, this first process was particularly refreshing when compared to the more traditional interview processes.
The cocktail evening was a wonderful night in which the applicants got together with many lawyers and partners to learn more about the firm – while we were also given the opportunity to show more of ourselves.
What does your employer do?
Thomson Geer is a large Australian corporate law firm that has seen some immense growth over the past few years. The firm offers the full range of legal corporate services and we work on a daily basis with some of Australia's largest organisations and international groups.
What are your areas of responsibility?
My main area of responsibility involves me taking the first crack at reviewing and drafting documents and correspondence. This may involve me researching and preparing the first draft of an advice, organising a brief to counsel, preparing suitable draft employment contracts or drafting employment policies and procedures.
I also have the responsibility of organising my to-do list and the general layout of each work day.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
A typical work day starts with me coming into work and making some breakfast. While eating my breakfast, I review any emails that may have come in overnight and I plan my day accordingly. After that, I start proceeding with the most important/urgent task on my to-do list and attend to any ad-hoc tasks that may arise during the day. For lunch, I often go out and grab food with my colleagues and, on Tuesdays, I participate in corporate touch football organised by the firm.
Meetings are common throughout the day – whether it be with clients, my supervising lawyer/partner (so that they are kept in the loop with what I am doing) or with the rest of the firm's Social Club Committee, to plan and organise the many events that we have in the pipeline.
The last thing I worked on was the employment section of a draft due diligence report. This task involves reviewing a number of documents (such as employment contracts and policy documents) provided by the seller of the business in which we then identify, and set out in the report, any legal risks that our client needs to be aware of.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
As a law graduate, I and others like me have numerous opportunities ahead. The first opportunity is to become a lawyer – for which, I am planning to be admitted in February 2019. From then onwards: associate, senior associate, special counsel and, of course, after enough effort and hard work has been put in, partner.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely, in the sense that you do not have to have any prior experience working in law firms to do my job. The firm itself provides numerous training opportunities and, of course, you also have your mentors, lawyers and partners providing you with further training and feedback.
You only really need to have a law degree or be working towards one.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I wasn't working in the law, I would probably be working in finance. However, you never know, and I might be a painter and/or musician.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy?
I love the amount of responsibility that I get, not only with the work that I am tasked with but also with the ability to manage and plan my own day. I also love the fact that my colleagues are all very willing to provide me with feedback and I feel this is always very important for me to learn and grow.
I really enjoy drafting advice to clients. It is a great opportunity to exercise your knowledge of the law and your creative side. I also enjoy preparing due diligence reports, as I feel that it is an exceptional way of learning more about your practice area quickly – given the large variety of documents that you need to review and analyse. This is especially true if you ask your partners and supervising lawyers for feedback.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
Sometimes you have just got to get things done by a deadline – whether required by the court, your client, the other side or your supervising lawyer/partner. This can mean working longer hours, however it is also a good opportunity to hone your ability to work under stress and at the end of the day, you do feel particularly accomplished.
What advice would you give to a current university student?
Be proactive and don't let opportunities slip away… but make sure you carefully consider where to apply – it's just as important as the content of your application! Also, don't be too hard on yourself. Learn from your mistakes and move on – but do learn.