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Summer Clerk Diary: Mary Browne, Jackson McDonald

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Hi! My name is Mary and I’m in my final year of a Law and Mass Communication (Public Relations) double degree at Murdoch University, Western Australia.

I was a 2011 summer clerk at Jackson McDonald. During the interview process, I told HR that I was very interested in succession law, and I was lucky enough to spend my three weeks at the firm in the Succession Planning Team.

Jackson McDonald was the first firm I clerked at and boy was it full of surprises. The first of these surprises was waking up really early in the morning to catch the packed train full odd characters. People just don’t understand the concept of personal space! However, commuting was nothing compared to systems training, learning who was who, finding my way around the office, understanding office etiquette and generally staying alert for eight hours a day.

Don’t let this reality put you off. I had an amazing experience at Jackson McDonald. I met some really great people and learnt more than I had ever imagined. I now catch up with the other clerks in my group on a regular basis!

On my first day at the firm I was introduced to my Buddy and Workflow Champion. A Buddy is essentially your go to person if I had any problems, questions or just want to have a chat. A Work Flow Champion is a supervising Partner or Special Counsel (they give you most of your work). I thought this system worked well because I felt comfortable asking my Buddy silly questions that I didn’t want to ask my Workflow Champion. Further, if my Workflow Champion was busy or out of the office, my Buddy always had something for me to do.

During my clerkship, I drafted various documents (such as wills and enduring powers of attorney), I compiled briefs to counsel, I attended client meetings and I went to court. I also researched complex issues that didn’t have a decisive answer. Some of the research I did actually formed part of an advice. One thing I learnt very quickly was that law in practise is nothing like what you learn at university. It’s all about commerciality and client focus, two things I never really thought about at university.

Each week, I attended practise group overviews, training sessions and CLEs (for those of you yet to do a clerkship – that’s a Continuing Legal Education seminar). These sessions really helped to break up each week and taught me more about the practical application of law. The sessions also exposed me to many different areas of law. Jackson McDonald is a full service firm, so I learnt about areas such as litigation, employment, insurance and property.

Jackson McDonald had an onsite library for all my research needs. The librarian could always locate the cases and articles I couldn’t find on LexisNexis (this was a common occurrence for me because most of the important succession cases are English and from the eighteen hundreds).

I really loved the office dynamic at Jackson McDonald. Everyone was super friendly and always willing to help out. I felt that the open-door policy was not just for show – I could pretty much walk into anyone’s office to discuss a task or have a chat.

I was invited to attend a number of social events whilst at Jackson McDonald. These events were a great opportunity to get to know people at the firm that I didn’t see on a daily basis. I was even invited to the Christmas party which was a big hit. The partners’ annual skit was hilarious!

Here are a few quick tips I’d like to leave you with:

  • Go to bed early.

  • Don’t walk into someone’s office without a pen and paper.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify a task.

  • Ask for the deadline of a task as soon as you get it.

  • Always ask for the matter number for the work you are doing so you can save your work in the right file.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of legal secretaries, they know the tricks of the trade and can really increase your efficiency.

Most importantly…have fun, be yourself and make the most of Friday night drinks!

Want to share your summer clerkship experience? Email us at

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