On the job in Banking and finance law

Suzie Porritt studied Bachelor of Arts at University of Melbourne / Juris Doctor at Monash University and is now graduate lawyer in the banking team at Clayton Utz.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia

What is your role?

I’m a graduate lawyer in the banking team at Clayton Utz.

Where did you study?

I graduated from a Bachelor of Arts with a major in criminology at the University of Melbourne in 2011. I then completed my Juris Doctor at Monash University, graduating in 2014.

How long have you had your current job?

I was lucky enough to clerk with Clayton Utz in December of 2013 through the usual clerkship process. I have been with the firm now since 2014 as a paralegal and then began my graduate year in March 2015, going through the rotations process. I am now a second year lawyer in the Banking and Finance team!

Can you think of life experience that influenced you as a lawyer?

When I was around 10 years old, my dad signed a contract to go into business with his best friend.  Given he trusted this man, unfortunately, he did not read the contract in detail and it cost him dearly.  As a consequence, my dad lost everything and went into bankruptcy, yet his best friend was untouched, managing to keep all of his assets and wealth.  My Dad has never fully financially recovered from this hit and I realized from a very young age, the power of understanding your rights and what you are signing. It's why I became a lawyer - so I could protect the people in my life when they don't know what their rights are.

Have you worked on any projects that you’re particularly proud of?

My Partner works in Project Finance, mainly on the private side. Recently, we worked on the HCMT (High Capacity Trains Project) PPP, which closed in November 2016.  This project involved the infrastructure project of designing and building 65 new high capacity trains to operate on the Sunshine to Dandenong line and to provide Melbourne the opportunity to operate a metro style rail network.  We have also recently acted for one of the bidders on the Melbourne Metro and Stations PPP which will be the biggest infrastructure project undertaken in Victoria's history, with tunneling to be undertaken under the Melbourne CBD.

What does your job involve?

For HCMT, I was running document management and was given the responsibility of coordinating Contract Close for the project. Given the size of the project, this was an incredible opportunity for a first year lawyer like me. It gave me incredible client face to face time and exposure to commercial and legal meetings as a junior lawyer.  For MMTS, I was in charge of all document management and version control, as well as coordinating and drafting the DD Report and drafting of various Project Documents.

PPPs are large projects which entail very complex legal and commercial issues. The only way to learn about PPPs is to jump in (or be thrown in) and learn on the job.  However, it is a great experience due to the sheer amount of people involved and the intensity of such big projects! I highly recommend the experience!

Could somebody with a different professional background do your job?

Provided you have the required legal qualification, absolutely!  What is really important is that you're open to learning.  In all honesty, your graduate year and first few years are all about immersing yourself in your team's work and learning as much as you can from a variety of projects, matters and clients. In my opinion, diverse backgrounds make this experience a more fruitful and engaging one.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

The people!  To be honest, the projects are very hard work.  It’s intellectually challenging and the hours are long for extended periods of time.  Working with fantastic teams both within your firm and externally make the process really engaging and even, dare I say it, a pleasure to be a part of (even without much sleep!)  It's also great to be able to look at physical infrastructure and say that you had a part to play in that.

What are the limitations of your job?

During a project, the hours can be demanding on your mind and body - but the rewards, in my opinion, are well worth it!  You learn faster and become more confident in your role and in your contributions to the client and the projects.  Realistically there are busy periods and quiet ones. You have to enjoy what you do because it will take dedication and much of your time in the midst of a project.  The real limitation to my particular job in project finance is that it limits your ability to go to the bar.  As a highly transactional team, I wouldn't recommend it to any students who see themselves as a QC in future!

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

  • I would say to enjoy the early years of your career and University.  It is a rare opportunity to learn about varying areas of legal practice.  The more diverse your electives, the greater opportunity to learn about the areas you might like to have a career in.  It will also set you in good stead for rotations (keep an open mind!). 
  • Try to enjoy the small wins.  Sometimes, we achieve one goal and immediately begin planning for the next.  If I could go back, I would say to myself, to stop and pause and just enjoy achieving the goals (even if only briefly) before jumping into achieving the next. 
  • And lastly, it will all be alright!  It is very stressful to be a law student but I promise you that everything works out the way it is supposed to.  Take the time for yourself to do what you enjoy, be it pilates, yoga, sport, reading a book or brunch with friends at Higher Ground - make the time!  Just keep at it and it will all sort itself out!

 Learn more about working in this field, jump to Banking and finance law overview.