Learning to litigate: a grad perspective

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Erin Delaney, Content Director at GradAustralia
Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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When you start looking for graduate programs and job opportunities, it’s exciting to think about getting a chance to watch seasoned law professionals do what they do well so you can learn from the best.

It’s not often a graduate job or clerkship allows you to have a role in a real litigation matter before the court.

But Allens is all about on-the-job learning and mentoring.

We sat down with Allens graduate, Gabrielle Morriss, to chat about life at Allens. She joined the prestigious law firm in late 2015, after graduating from Bond University with a double degree in law and international relations in 2013. She told us about her experiences as a very hands-on graduate lawyer.

“If you put up your hand, and [the partners] have worked with you before and they trust you, they tend to let you get involved,” she explains. “They’ve given me a lot more responsibility than I expected.”

Give it a go

While this might sound daunting to a new graduate, Gabrielle has tried-and-tested advice from her own experience, counselling students to seize the opportunity to learn in a new way: “Don’t be afraid to try something new!”

“What you offer the firm is potential, and what the firm offers you is opportunity. The difference between someone who becomes a good lawyer, or a great lawyer, is someone who recognises that they don’t have all the skills but they are willing to learn.”

“There’s a lot of scope in litigation, and Allens tries to up-skill you as much as possible. There’s a strong focus on long-term learning.”

Trying litigation on for size

For those in the graduate program wanting to try their hand at litigation, Allens is eager to encourage and support its recruits to explore this area of speciality.

In the world of litigation, you’re normally brought in part-way through a matter. Gabrielle came in on the ‘further discovery’ phase of a matter.

“I spent about eight months dealing with discovery and interlocutory applications in the court. Because it was a smaller matter than others, I got to draft and prepare briefs to counsel for mediations and interlocutory applications,” she says.

The length of the larger cases can be tiring. However, Allens’ tries to assign grads to smaller cases - allowing them to experience the full start-to-finish process.

Setting expectations

While some firms expect graduates to do legwork rather than really get involved, at Allens the approach is to get involved and learn as you go.

“You’re expected to think and form your own opinion. And if you don’t agree with something, you are encouraged to discuss your opinion,” Gabrielle explains.

“You deal with novel or cutting-edge areas of the law that are very challenging and stimulating at the same time.” Gabrielle told us. “They’re cutting edge in the sense that clients often come to Allens with unsettled areas of law… and you’re advising clients on how to achieve a commercial outcome.”

Litigation is about thinking on your feet and arguing for a point persuasively - heady stuff for a recent grad.