On the job as an associate and manager at PwC

Jonathan Chelvam studied Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce at Murdoch University and is now an associate and manager at PwC.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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What is your current role?

I am an associate and manager at PwC Legal.

Where did you study?

I complete a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce at Murdoch University in Perth. This included a year of study in Sweden.

How did you come to have your current role?

I cast my net wide when applying for graduate positions and was fortunate to land a role in PwC’s Corporate Tax team in Perth, which seemed like a great combination of both my Law and Commerce degrees and came highly recommended by a number of close relatives and friends who had started their careers in a ‘Big Four’ environment.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this role, working on many complex tax advices, transactions and restructuring matters, as well as an ongoing tax dispute that kept me busy from day one. 

After 3 and a half years in this role, I heard about the appointment of Tony O’Malley and Tim Blue (former managing partners of King & Wood Mallesons) to develop PwC’s Legal team and steer it into a new age of multi-disciplinary practice in competition with the traditional top-tier law firms.  Having always wanted to experience working in a corporate legal environment, I asked for an opportunity to give it a go and was, with the full support of my team in Perth, given a six month secondment to the Legal team in Sydney, fulfilling both my professional desire for a legal role and also a personal desire to broaden my horizons in a new city.  About two months into my secondment I realized that I didn’t want to go home, and over two years later I’m still here!

What does PwC Legal do?

PwC is one of the largest professional services firms in the world.  PwC Legal is a rapidly growing part of PwC’s Financial Advisory business, providing external legal services to a range of clients in targeted areas, including corporate advisory, regulatory, projects and finance and employment and workplace relations, both as a standalone service and also as an integrated service with other PwC teams such as tax, consulting, deals and assurance. 

What does your role involve?

Given PwC Legal’s unique position of operating under the broader PwC umbrella, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of diverse and interesting matters, often in conjunction with other PwC teams, ranging from corporate M&A transactions, commercial legal advice, internal corporate reorganisations, privacy and data protection matters, intellectual property matters and even Government consulting engagements.  Every day is completely different, but generally involves a combination of strategic thinking, collaboration with partners, team members and staff from other lines of service, legislative research and interpretation, drafting documents and some form of client liaison. 

Could someone with a different professional or academic background do your job?

Yes, provided they have the requisite qualifications to practice as a lawyer (i.e. completed a law degree, completed some form of practical legal training and hold a valid practicing certificate).  While a technical understanding of the law is obviously important, at a junior level I believe that having an ability to build strong relationships, communicate effectively and act commercially, coupled with a willingness to apply your mind and have a go, will inevitably lead to success in the role.

Given the rapidly evolving legal market there is an increased focus on recruiting people with different backgrounds and experiences in order to provide a unique perspective on client issues and a competitive edge in formulating potential solutions.  As a multi-disciplinary service provider, at PwC I have had the opportunity to work with people from a range of different backgrounds, including accountants, engineers, health practitioners, management consultants, ex-Federal policemen and cyber-security analysts to name a few, which not only resulted in more holistic advice for the client but also broadened my understanding of the subject matter at hand. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

One of the coolest things about my career to date has been the opportunity to go on secondment, both to a new office and also to a new team, allowing me to experience life in a new city and also achieve a professional goal of practicing as a corporate lawyer.  Having the opportunity to be involved in an exciting phase of growth in PwC’s Legal team and work with the high calibre of partners and lawyers that continue to join the team has been an added bonus. 

At a more tangible level, having the ability to work flexibly (i.e. from home and around other commitments), exercise my own judgement in deciding what to wear to work (PwC recently abolished its professional dress code) and take advantage of the brand new premises at Barangaroo (which is custom built to enable a flexible, connected and activity-based working environment, including a ‘fun space’ complete with a ping pong table, arcade games, musical instruments and my personal favourite, a dedicated LEGO room) has been a recent highlight, following PwC’s shift towards facilitating a more relaxed, collaborative and solutions-driven workplace of the future.

What are the limitations of your job?

Maintaining a well-rounded and sustainable work-life balance can often be a challenge of any job in professional services. There are times when I’ve had to sacrifice weekends and bail on prior commitments in order to meet tight and unpredictable deadlines, however the amount I have learned and experiences I have gained as a result has definitely made it worthwhile.  Support and guidance is also always provided by the team when you need it, so it’s comforting to know that you are never alone in trenches.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a university student?

  1. Study abroad.  Having the opportunity to travel, form new relationships and live independently in a completely foreign city helped me broaden my experiences, appreciate people from different walks of life and probably shaped my professional career in ways I can’t imagine.
  2. Cast your net wide when applying for graduate positions.  I can’t say that a graduate role in Corporate Tax is something I initially envisaged myself doing when I first started university, but it set me down a great path and I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve ended up.
  3. Have a go!  I have always had the mentality of being open to trying new things, both personally and professionally.  Even if you end up hating the pursuit, you wouldn’t have known unless you tried it, and more often than not you’ll find that each step leads to a better opportunity around the corner.  

 Learn more about working in this field, jump to careers for law graduates in the consulting sector or the Commercial law overview.