On the Job with Heather from King & Wood Mallesons

Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elesy
Team GradAustralia
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Heather Kirkup is a trainee solicitor with King & Wood Mallesons, she graduated with  Law and Commerce (Finance), University of Queensland in 2013. 

Any legal experience before joining KWM? 

I did paralegal work at Dibbs Barker from 2011–2013 and also a summer clerkship while I was at university. I also did a four-week clerkship program with KWM in 2012. 

What about KWM caught your eye? 

The firm offered opportunities to work overseas within a global network, which I definitely took into consideration. Considering I am in London at the moment, I think it was a good decision. Graduates have the opportunity during their third rotation to apply for a secondment to our offices in London, Hong Kong and interstate. 

What have you done since joining KWM? 

I recently completed the graduate program, which runs 18 months with three rotations. My rotations were in mergers and acquisitions, real estate and banking and finance. 

What have been the best aspects? 

The people and the workplace culture. The work we do is challenging and can be demanding but I have always felt supported by a great group of bright lawyers and mentors. There is always plenty going on socially, from days at the races to social mixed netball. 

I am now doing a six-month secondment in corporate real estate in London (my title here is trainee solicitor, although I would be a solicitor in Australia). To have this opportunity so early in my career has been incredible. I have learned so much about the global legal market and have been able to forge international connections within our firm. 

What has been most challenging? 

As with any top-tier law firm, the answer is “the hours”. We work on large, innovative deals for high profile clients and this can mean demanding timelines and losing a degree of control over your extra-curricular life. 

What has been most surprising? 

The level of autonomy. Before starting I was told that at all top-tier firms, graduates are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole and that I would have no client contact. My experience has been exactly the opposite. I have enjoyed having the ability to work on my own matters and take ownership of them. 

Any advice to current students? 

Your university marks will get you in the door for an interview but from that point on you need to think about what differentiates you. Don’t neglect your extra-curricular activities and get as much practice as you can presenting yourself in high pressure situations before your interview. Most importantly, show the interviewers who you are and what is unique about you. At the end of the day, the firm is looking for personalities they want to work with.