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Lawyer – Employment & Safety and Disputes teams, Thomson Gee
Megan Bowman studied a Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice, and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) (Human Resources). Megan is a lawyer in the Employment & Safety and Disputes teams at Thomson Geer.
What's your full name and job title?
Megan Bowman. I am a lawyer in the Employment & Safety and Disputes teams at Thomson Geer Adelaide.
What did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied a Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice, and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) majoring in Human Resources at Flinders University. I graduated in September 2018.
Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)
I grew up in Woodcroft, a suburb south of Adelaide, and completed school at Reynella East College. If I'm honest, I think there can be a stigma around public school students going on to attend university, but I was adamant to not let this stop me from achieving. I worked hard at school because I knew I wanted to go to university, and was actually awarded Academic Student of the Year when I graduated Year 12. I have worked part time in retail since I was 16 years old.
I went straight from school to Flinders University, and I continued to also work in retail through my whole degree. I believe working while studying is a great way to show prospective employers that you can manage your time, work in a team environment, communicate with customers and are loyal to your employer. In my second year at Flinders University, I started to think about volunteering opportunities to give me relevant legal experience. I volunteered for two years at Mediation SA and then volunteered for a further two years at Southern Community Justice Centre. My experience at these organisations helped me understand how to work in an office and how a legal centre operates (and it was much less daunting to start work at Thomson Geer from having these experiences!).
I was quite actively involved in the Law School at university. The Flinders University Law School promotes an excellent culture of getting students together to create lasting bonds out in the legal profession. For two years I participated in the practical client interview competition held by the university and was fortunate to represent Flinders University at the Australian Law Student National Competitions to compete against other universities in Australasia (held once in Tasmania and once in Canberra). During my final year of my degree I also chose to do a two week exchange in Indonesia (Makassar, Jakarta and Yogjakarta). This was an excellent opportunity that allowed me to work on my diplomacy skills by engaging in meaningful discussions with Indonesian and Australian officials (and is one of my main highlights from my time at university). I also took the opportunity to travel both interstate and overseas for my own personal enjoyment as much as I could while at university and would encourage anyone to do the same.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I first applied for a summer clerkship online via the Thomson Geer website. I completed a clerkship (the first clerkship I had ever completed) in the Adelaide office between November and December 2017. When I returned from my exchange to Indonesia, I received a graduate lawyer offer from Thomson Geer starting at the end of February 2018. At the end of my graduate year in 2019, I was offered a permanent position as a lawyer in the Employment & Safety and Disputes teams.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
I am not one of those people who can say that they always knew they wanted to study law. During school I always had a keen interest in writing and humanities based subjects but I was not sure what I wanted to do with this. Before receiving my ATAR I actually considered studying journalism at university because I enjoyed writing so much. When I received my ATAR I decided to push myself and applied for the Law and Behavioural Science degree at Flinders University. I chose behavioural science as my second degree because I really enjoyed psychology in year 12, and felt that this choice gave me a sort of 'fall back' option if the law degree didn't work out.
Through actually studying my degree I realised how much I enjoyed the analysis and attention to detail that is required in the practice of law. This is what led me to decide I wanted to practice law after finishing university.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The interview process at Thomson Geer is not like your 'typical' interview process (which makes it a lot more interesting!). The process to obtain a clerkship starts with a standard online application where you attach your resume, cover letter, transcript and answer general employment questions such as where you went to school and what work experience you may have.
The second round of the process is a video interview. The video interview is not live (which is much less stressful than a normal interview!) and involves delivering two minute answers to three questions you receive ahead of time. The video interview questions involve a component of research but also invite you to share your personality. My video interview questions were along the lines of 'How does government spending affect the economy?', 'Explain a case of interest to you and describe who you would act for and why?', and 'Describe a time you used innovation to streamline processes'.
The third round of the process is a networking event that is held at Thomson Geer, and is attended by a number of partners, senior associates and junior lawyers. The event is really to give the firm a chance to show you what they are all about and for you to determine whether Thomson Geer is somewhere you would like to work. The questions I was asked at this event were based more around what I was interested in outside of university and work. The networking event is definitely the time to let your personality shine and engage with those in the firm on a more personal level rather than just academically.
What does your employer do?
Thomson Geer is a large independent Australian corporate law firm. We provide full service corporate advice to a range of high profile clients.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am still on a restricted practising certificate so am not in a position where I am allowed to run matters on my own. Despite this, I am given responsibility over matters where I work in close contact with my partner. For example, I am responsible for knowing what is happening in a matter and offering ideas to my partner for how the matter should progress. I am also then given responsibility to draft documents (such as letters and pleadings) to be settled by my partner before they are sent out to the client.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
No work day is exactly the same for me, which is one of the things I enjoy about my job. This is the nature of legal work, as work will vary depending on what matters we have going on. However, a typical work day may involve me getting to work then reading any outstanding emails. I may be given a research task from my partner or another lawyer in my team and produce a memo on my findings, or may be asked to draft a letter to a client on a particular matter. As I work in the Employment & Safety team, my day can also typically involve attending the South Australian Employment Tribunal on behalf of clients, for example at a conciliation conference or directions hearing. I liaise with a number of people on any day at work including partners, special counsel, senior associates, associates, other junior lawyers and clients.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
Thomson Geer has great career prospects for anyone who is willing to put in the hard work. From multiple years as a junior lawyer the firm offers an associate role and from there, a senior associate role. Once appointed as a senior associate, a person can work towards partnership, or alternatively special counsel (for those for whom partnership may not appeal).
The process is generally based on years within the firm but is in no way confined to this. Anyone who shows their willingness to progress and work hard can work their way up the career ladder.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Definitely! Although it would be required that you have a law degree. However, it is not necessary that you would have a corporate background (because I certainly didn't). Anyone who is willing to work hard and is open to learning could be a lawyer in a corporate law firm.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I wasn't practicing law I would probably look to work in human resources. This would still allow me to work within a corporate team to help achieve the business goals of a company.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love the client contact I get in my job. I engage with a range of clients and help them achieve positive business outcomes. It's very satisfying to know that the work I do for our clients has a direct impact on improving their business and from that, a direct impact on the people within that business personally.
The tasks that I enjoy the most are writing letters and drafting court documents such as pleadings or defences.
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?
My job does involve the occasional long hours and high stress work. This is not a common occurrence, but definitely does happen every now and again. For example, if we have a trial approaching it will be all hands on deck to get the necessary documents and witnesses ready. This can mean longer hours, occasional weekend work and a high stress environment to get the necessary work done.
The positive side of this, however, is you get a real sense of achievement that you get to share with your colleagues when the work is completed. The adrenaline that comes from a whole floor working on a task actually creates quite a buzz!
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
- Any experience is good experience. Engaging in part-time work while you study (even if not law related) shows you can manage your time, work with others and engage with customers. Volunteering in more law related areas is also a great way to build skills (I recommend contacting your local legal service clinic – they are always happy to have extra resources!).
- Travel while you can. For example, doing an exchange at university gives you a great opportunity to study abroad while experiencing new cultures. Travelling generally also expands your understanding of diversity and makes you a well rounded person. Once you start full-time work it's more difficult to take these opportunities so do it while you can!
- Enjoy the ride! University can be stressful and it's easy to get caught up in lectures and assignments, while also considering where you are heading with your life/career. Appreciate the freedom university gives you while you have it and make the most of your time.