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Summer Clerk Diary: Bethany-Kate Lewis, Australian Taxation Office

Bethany Kate

The last place I ever expected to be an intern at was the Australian Taxation Office.

This assumption was admittedly made on the basis of my lack tax law experience (I am yet to study it at uni, for example) and my propensity to be drawn towards Legal Aid/Community Legal Centre experiences, but it is safe to say I wasn’t the only one who thought it. Anyone who knows anything about me would not have expected it.

Fortunately I have never been one to shirk an opportunity and my ‘apply for all things’ attitude coupled with a great deal of enthusiasm has landed me in what has been the best practical legal experience I have had to date.

My internship is a lot longer than most of the summer clerkships being 470 hours and finishing at the end of April next year. I also started at the end of October and was doing the odd day throughout exams. This has actually been a blessing as I was able to complete all the government security checks and pre-training before beginning full time at the office.

I work in Interpretive Assistance for Large Business but the Office also knows that I am a keen journalist and has allowed me to utilise this skill by writing articles for their newsletters. To explain my typical day-to-day activities is particularly difficult as I am yet to have a day that has been similar to another. What is usual about my working mornings is arriving at the office around 8am. Everything after that is a flurry of new information and challenging learning experiences. My work includes analysing and summarising case rulings, and attending court. I’ve even met the Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo.

While my tax law knowledge is still VERY limited I have been learning on the go. Everyone has been very supportive and always has time to explain concepts I do not understand. Fortunately I have taken to this style of learning. Having real life examples to apply legislation to makes so much more sense than problem solving questions!

Saying that, I should take this time to say thank you to my company law lecturers: I know my grades suggested you taught me nothing but it turns out I’m a lot better at applying my knowledge outside exams! I would be climbing a much steeper learning curve if I had not already completed this course.

It is a common expectation that every learning experience should have a moral to the story, so I guess this is mine. Ending up at the ATO was unexpected, but I am so glad that I was flexible and took the opportunity given to me. I’m in for a rewarding summer, especially when only four weeks in, I’ve already created a legacy in my section. My apologies to the future law students at the ATO who will be required to bring in baked goods once a week!

Bethany-Kate is a law student at the University of Newcastle.

Read more clerkship stories from our 2012/13 Summer Clerk Diary series:

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