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Summer Clerk Diary: Sophie Raynor, Anthony R Clarke & Associates

Sophie Raynor

Not wanting to miss out on gaining valuable legal experience, last year I opted to apply for clerkships with smaller, boutique firms. While this meant I received (what I hope was) a larger number of rejections because fewer small firms take clerks, it also meant I was fortunate enough to gain one-on-one experience with Anthony R Clarke & Associates, a boutique family law firm in suburban Perth.

Law Stuff that I’ve Done

With only three lawyers in the practice, I worked closely with a senior associate on each of his cases. My duties varied between clients: I read files, sat in on client interviews, compiled chronologies and case summaries from affidavits and other court documents, went to court to watch a conciliation conference and researched points of law for an upcoming trial.

Highlights and Challenges

The size of the firm was the best thing about my clerkship. Having so few lawyers and staff members created a close, friendly, welcoming atmosphere and I really felt like a part of a team. While my contributions may not have been earth-shatteringly important, I felt like my opinions were valued and respected, and I never felt like I was at the bottom of the food chain.

The amount of time I spent with my associate gave me some real insights into the workings of the family court system and the procedure of a trial, and the opportunity to discuss cases with him was invaluable.

While the size of the firm created a friendly atmosphere, at times it was difficult to stay on task because when I wasn’t with my associate, I was researching alone and I had no other clerks to share the experience with. Similarly, I floundered a bit having not studied family law before completing the clerkship – fortunately, the lawyers were helpful and patient in explaining things to me.

What I’ve Learned

One of the most important things I learned from my clerkship is to always ask questions. Even if I thought it sounded dumb, it was always valuable to ask questions like, “should I take notes?’ or “how long do you want me to spend on this?” or “where is the Family Court?” because it helped me understand what my associate’s priorities were and it prevented him from making assumptions about what I knew. Another important thing I learned from my clerkship is to back myself more and to trust my judgement.

My clerkship provided me with some great legal experience, an interest in a subject I knew nothing about previously and the knowledge that maybe I do want to give this lawyer thing a go after all.

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

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