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Summer Clerk Diary: Jessie-Grace Stephenson, Gilbert + Tobin


It’s not just you. I had no idea what a clerkship would be like before I worked at a law firm, and now with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that undertaking a clerkship at Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Students are attracted to G+T for different reasons. I was attracted to G+T by the level of expertise that the firm has in areas of Competition, Technology, Banking & Finance and more, as well as the thorough commercial training it offers. But equally important to me were the social justice opportunities that are available: we undertook pro bono work, I volunteered for the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service roster, and G+T also sponsors two clerks to work in a native title body in a remote Aboriginal community over the winter uni holidays as a part of the Aurora Project.

I can tell you that my expectations in these respects were fulfilled and surpassed.

My first rotation was in Banking & Finance. From partners taking their time out to give me work and happily answer any questions that I had, to being able to email clients and be copied into client emails throughout transactions that I was working on, I really felt like I was a part of a team. Amongst other things, I worked on memos for clients around restructuring, and released a debt that was over 80 years old as a part of a global deal. I even caught a taxi to a marina to get a Director to sign documents for a time critical transaction (after he jumped off his boat to briefly meet me).

My second rotation was in Corporate, Communications and Technology. The group has such a breadth of expertise that after four weeks of work I barely even know half of what they do. During my time in the group I helped with the renegotiation of contracts for clients, researched the new laws around cybercrime in Australia, and learnt a lot about cutting edge areas of technology such as cloud computing.

The four to five weeks in each group gave me a unique insight into many things, from what lawyers actually do, to how to manage deadlines (and expectations!). The thing that I noticed the most throughout my time at G+T is that although I’m barely a lawyer, everyone really gives you a go and wants to help you learn as much as possible. I was welcome to knock on partners’ doors even for a chat (provided they weren’t too busy). Every task was explained to me in its context so that I could see exactly how I was contributing to the matters. And even the lovely G+T internal café staff ended up knowing my name and my daily breakfast order (2 sourdough with vegemite, fruit salad and yoghurt, and a skinny cap all for under $5)!

I found myself really enjoying the work, and the play. With only 15 clerks we really had a chance to get to know each other. The G+T Christmas Party talent show, which showed the true talent of some, and the hilarity of others, was a highlight. As were the frequent clerkship events: sports at Rushcutters Bay (where we gave it a go and mainly laughed at ourselves), going to the St George Open Air Cinema with all the clerks, lunches, coffees, drinks after work, trivia nights and the clerkship cruise. The firm even organised Christine Burke (a G+T partner) to present to us on her remarkable climb to the summit of Everest, a presentation which I will never forget.

The cutting-edge work, depth of experience and training make me want to come back to G+T, and the opportunity to work with fantastic people and on pro bono just complement its appeal to me. With so much exciting change and growth happening, who knows what G+T will look like when I am a graduate, but I am looking forward to finding out.

This summer clerk diary was contributed by Jessie-Grace Stephenson who is currently studying a Bachelor of Law/Economics at the University of Sydney.

Want to share your summer clerkship experience? Email us at contact@survivelaw.com.

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