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On the job as an evidence specialist at Dodkin McBride Litigation Support
Svetlana Collantes studied Masters of Law at University of Technology Sydney and is now Evidence Specialist at Dodkin McBride Litigation Support.
What is your current role?
My name is Svetlana Collantes and, for the past two years, I’ve worked as an Evidence Specialist at Dodkin McBride Litigation Support. I dedicate my free time to acting as Chair of the Business Law Committee for NSW Young Lawyers.
Where did you study?
I was educated in Sydney, Australia, at Ascham School and grew up in Redfern. I attended the University of Sydney to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree and then completed my Postgraduate Law and Masters of Law degrees at the University of Technology, Sydney, in 2009 and 2014 respectively.
What is your employer’s goal?
Dodkin McBride Litigation Support works with plaintiff law firms to enable its solicitors to better present and prepare their cases.
What does your role involve?
I am required to draft extensive, detailed and well-expressed witness statements, and assess complex matters related to liability and quantum. I primarily work on personal injury matters that relate to motor vehicle accidents and workplace safety.
Can you describe a normal day in your role?
For me, a normal day consists of interviewing and liaising with plaintiffs and support witnesses (both of an English-speaking background and others) and interpreters either via telephone or face to face. I am also required to analyse any documentation that I receive from the client including medical, financial or personal information. My role me to drive to a lot of places outside of the Sydney CBD, like the western or southern suburbs, to meet and talk with clients.
Could somebody with a different background do your job?
Yes, a non-lawyer would be able to undertake this position if they possessed investigator qualifications. However, the majority of my colleagues are from a legal background, because the skills you learn as a law student are vital in this role. It’s important to be organised and to have a good understanding of the processes and procedures involved with insurers and the like. You should also be able to interpret any documentation you receive from clients, including complex medical expert evidence.
What do you like most about your role?
I enjoy meeting the clients the most. Most of the clients are severely psychiatrically or physically injured and meeting them face to face provides me with the drive and determination to provide them with the best possible advice about their claim.
Is there a downside to your current job?
In my role, I do bear a lot of responsibility. My job is not typically a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. role. I work on a consultant capacity and if there is a deadline to turn over the work, I am sometimes required to work over the weekends. While I enjoy driving, I find it physically draining, as I frequently drive at least three times per week to meet clients, and sometimes it’s a two-hour journey each way. Client meetings last for roughly three to four hours.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a law student?
- Get involved with the legal profession as soon as possible. Getting involved doesn’t just encompass working in the field but also getting involved with NSW Young Lawyers whether it is helping a Committee to plan an event, contribute to a Submission or write an article for a Newsletter or for one of the Committee’s publications.
- Be unique! In my view, it is not enough nowadays to achieve high distinctions at university, employers are also on the hunt for students who have something else to offer.
- Be enthusiastic and willing to learn! Entering the legal profession as a young lawyer or law graduate is a daunting task. Just remember it is ok to not know the answer to everything.