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Summer Clerk Diary: Dave Barton, Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Dave Barton

Despite having several years’ experience working full-time, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a clerkship at a commercial law firm. Everyone knows it’s a chance to learn what commercial practice involves, and a big step towards securing a graduate position. Starting out by getting to know the other clerks – and seeing a few familiar faces in the group – helped to calm those first-day nerves.

From the induction days to the workshops and partner sessions, it was clear that Corrs was endeavouring to make all of us feel welcome.

Meaningful Work

My experience in the Planning, Environment and Local Government (PELG) team at Corrs couldn’t have been more different to the clerkship tales of endless filing and photocopying. From the first day on the floors, I was doing work ranging from research tasks supporting advices to clients, to helping prepare for the biggest case on climate change in Victoria.

Two particular highlights were drafting a technical affidavit for upcoming litigation and developing a toolkit for clients interested in generating carbon credits and renewable energy certificates. Yes, there was a little bit of filing and photocopying, but there was an abundance of enjoyable challenges.

Excellent People

Having worked full-time before starting my law degree, I know the big difference working with good people can make. It’s no exaggeration to say that I felt like part of the team in PELG throughout my clerkship. No matter how busy things became, everyone took the time to help each other and share their knowledge. Everyone I met at Corrs made the effort to make the entire clerkship group feel welcome and to answer any questions we had about working in commercial law, including the partners of other practice groups.

Friday night drinks, lunchtime trivia sessions and the occasional coffee meeting gave us a chance to have a laugh together and build connections that (I hope!) will last for years to come.

Taking Opportunities

Going into my clerkship at Corrs, I was a little daunted because I hadn’t studied planning law or environmental law beforehand. If I had one piece of advice for anyone about to start their first clerkship, it would be that clerkships are not about knowing the black-letter law in a practice area before you step into the office. They’re about experiencing the realities of working in commercial law. What really matters is bringing the right attitude, taking the opportunities to extend your skills and knowledge, learning to manage the work you’ve been given, and not being afraid to ask questions. Thanks to the people at Corrs, I’ve had a great opportunity build on my legal skills and am more confident about pursuing a career in commercial law.

And along the way, I think I learned a fair bit about planning and environmental law, too…

Dave Barton is a juris doctor student at Monash University in Melbourne.

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