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I want your job: Interview with Faraz Maghami, Judge's Associate


To find out exactly what being an Associate to a Judge entails, Survive Law spoke exclusively with Faraz Maghami, Associate to a Judge.

Faraz is a graduate of the University of Western Sydney and is the Past National President of the Australian Law Students Association (ALSA). He was previously employed at eBay where he worked with the in-house legal team for four years.

Why did you want to be an Associate?

It’s a stepping-stone for aspiring Barrister – and you guessed it, I’m an aspiring Barrister.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an Associate to a Judge?

I have always wanted to go to the Bar, but I actually decided four months prior to the end of my degree.

Is the role what you expected it to be?

It is and at the same time it is not what I expected – the amount of mentoring and assistance you receive really depends on the Judge, so research the Judge that you propose to work for as much as you can.

How do you find out about these positions?

Through a university Professor.

For you, is this a temporary career choice?

Definitely temporary – it is a quasi-legal position and many Associates with no legal qualification hold such positions – after a period the intellectual stimulation wears off, but the drama of the courtroom keeps it interesting.

What are the benefits of working as an Associate?

Behind the scenes perspective; watching good and bad advocates and learning from their mistakes; having a Judge as a mentor and subsequently as a referee as well as the opportunity to make contacts with Counsel.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety of cases, counsel and litigants-in-person. Of course the black robe and the title of “Associate to His Honour XXXX” is nice as well.

What don’t you like about your job?

The administrative aspect of it all – then again, the same will be expected of you, if not more, in practice.

What is the most rewarding aspect of the role?

The most rewarding aspect is at time having a say about the case – should the Judge invite you to discuss the matter or ask your opinion, it is always a welcomed gesture. The opportunity to discuss legal concepts with such a brilliant legal mind as a Judge, is not the most available option for many individuals.

What are Judges really like?

Absolutely normal human beings – some with demanding personalities, but I have been blessed to have had an amazing Judge. It is much easier, I would think, to appear in court after having interacted for a period with a Judge as an Associate, as well as meeting most of the other Judges of the court. You get to know the Judges, their personalities and their likes and dislikes.

What advice would you give to students who want to take up this career path?

  • Start looking early, research the Judge you propose to work with, research the jurisdiction and speak to other or former Associates.

  • Dress appropriately for the interview, know some of the recent cases that the Judge has been involved with.

  • Do NOT dispense with formality when addressing the Judge

  • Most important of all, embrace yourself for an interesting time – you will have good days and bad days, just relax and enjoy the ride.

Anything else you would like to add?

An Associate’s position is an ideal stepping-stone for an aspiring Barrister, as the role includes a ‘behind-the-scenes’ take of the justice system, mentoring opportunities by a senior and learned member of the legal profession as well as networking opportunities with other Judges and Associates. Many notable members of the esteemed legal profession began their career as Associates, including Justices McTiernan and Aickin, as they were then. There are no strict pre-requisites, however, the majority of Associates have a law degree and accept a 1 – 2 year term before commencing practice.

Associate positions to a Judge

Yes, I’ve been there; well I’m actually still here. And as everyone who has ever held the impressive title of “Associate to His Honour…..” will confess, it is difficult to explain what is actually involved in working as a judge’s associate.

The reason that all associates stumble, when trying to explain what is entailed in the position, is that every associate’s job is different. Each judge works differently and the tasks of their associate will naturally differ. However, as a guide, a District Court associate’s tasks can be divided into three areas:

  • Ceremonial

  • Research

  • Administrative

In relation to the ceremonial duties, the legendary line, “How say you, guilty or not guilty?” takes the cake (but it becomes less exhilarating on indictments which bear over 10 counts). Empanelling the jury, walking around the corridors in a black robe, being referred to as ‘Mr Associate’ and handing out your business cards, all add to the splendour of holding such a position. In saying that I must note that the pomp can be chiselled away (slowly) when asked by the Judge to “grab a skim cappuccino”.

In relation to the Research aspect of the position, one must be an astute individual who is proactive in situations and excellent at multi-tasking. Sitting in Court listening to legal submissions, keeping a tab on exhibits, typing up relevant orders as they are uttered at a mile a second and eventually perfecting the ability to log onto LexisNexis, find a case with the incorrect citation (provided by Counsel), print and run back to the learned Judge in a matter of 30 seconds becomes an affectionate part of the daily dealings of an associate.

The last, but not least important duty, being the administrative duties, include liaising with Counsel and other legal representatives to deal with part-heard matters, typing orders and at times judgments, revising judgments and reminding the judge of important court dates and social events. You will hold the privilege of making sure that everything runs smoothly and have the registry (or even Counsel, if you can get away with it) at your disposal to blame, should things not go to plan.

The other fun part of being an associate is accompanying the judge on circuit. An associate is required to travel with the judge when they sit in courts in regional NSW to hear matters. This could be anywhere from sunny Penrith or even sunnier Port Macquarie.

Now that I have bamboozled you with knowledge of what a position of an associate to a judge entails, you may like to keep in mind that most positions are not advertised. So put down your SMH, or the Financial Review (for those trying to look important) and jump on the phone to the Court registry or the associate to a specific judge that you would like to work for and see whether there will be an opening in the close future. Some Judges will put up a notice at each University, advertising the position. It’s a good idea to keep a lookout all the year round because the positions don’t necessarily become available at a particular time each year. Being proactive is the best manner of approach.

An associate’s position is an ideal stepping-stone for an aspiring Barrister, as the role includes a ‘behind-the-scenes’ take of the justice system, mentoring opportunities by a senior and learned member of the legal profession as well as networking opportunities with other judges and associates. Many notable members of the esteemed legal profession began their career as associates, including Justices McTiernan and Aickin, as they were then. There are no strict pre-requisites, however, the majority of Associates have a law degree and accept a 1 – 2 year term before commencing practice.

Also, did I mention the robe?

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