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I Want Your Job: Q&A with Kate Phillips, Legal Officer, Attorney-General’s Department

Parliament House Canberra

Kate Phillips graduated from the Australian National University in 2010. She began work as a paralegal at the Australian Capital Territory Government Solicitor’s office before undertaking an internship in the Intellectual Property Division of the World Trade Organisation.

She began working for the Attorney General’s Department in the graduate program in February 2011. Her role involves developing and implementing anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding (AML/CTF) policy at the Commonwealth level. Her department also works closely with AUSTRAC, Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit, as well as international partners.

What first interested you in working in this area of law?

Throughout law school I was interested in economic regulation, including competition and consumer and intellectual property regulation. While I hadn’t been specifically interested in AML/CTF (to be honest, I probably hadn’t even heard of it), I found that the technical analysis and policy aims were similar to the forms of economic regulation with which I was more familiar.

What do you find is the most satisfying part of working in financial crime?

To be able discuss policy problems with stakeholders who interact with the legal system at many different points: from intelligence agencies, to the regulator and regulated entities, to law enforcement and prosecutors, and find a policy solution that meets the objectives of all stakeholders involved, is very satisfying.

What are the difficulties that lawyers working in this area face?

Accurately measuring the impact of successful economic regulation. Because we seek to prevent individuals from committing financial crimes, measurement (of what was prevented) will always be a counterfactual scenario.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Representing Australia at the Asia Pacific Regional Review Group; a subgroup of the Financial Action Task Force used to encourage countries to bring their AML/CTF regimes into line with the international FATF Standards on combating money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation.

What advice would you give to law students wanting to work for the government?

Apply for graduate programs in your final year of university, in particular at State, Territory and Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Departments and Government Solicitors Offices. Particularly if you’re finishing at the end of the year, remember that applications for many programs will close in first semester of your final year. You will doubtless have many other things on your mind at this point: from theses to assignments and exams, but if you want to start a graduate program in the following year, this is also the time when you need to apply.

Your university careers centre will also have a wealth of information about applying for graduate positions, interview techniques, and assessment centre tasks (such as a group interview) which you may not have previously encountered.

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