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Summer Clerk Diary: Lara Macalyk, Gadens Lawyers

Lara Macalyk

The career fairs, online applications, cocktail nights and the rounds of interviews to secure a summer clerkship are worth it. Having just completed a clerkship at Gadens– I can easily say it has been an extremely exhilarating and rewarding experience!

It is difficult to portray what a ‘typical week in the life of a clerk’ would be because each week has brought its unique challenges and rewards, from attending sittings of the High Court to working on secondment at eBay, looking back it was an action-packed 12 weeks.

It's not always cocktails and long lunches (although they do feature), with a typical day likely to involve what one would expect to see in a clerk-like role; meeting lots of new people, taking notes, doing research and compiling briefs – but what surprised me was the extent of the time and resources the firm dedicates specifically to clerk training.

This training taught us the practical and administrative background needed to commence working in a commercial law environment. On top of this, and what I found to be extremely valuable, was the individual training seminars given from the head partners of each practice group in the firm. Heading into my clerkship I had an idea of the practice areas I liked and why, however these sessions piqued my interest in other areas I may not have thought I would be drawn to. The partners' personalised view gave an invaluable insight into all the different practice groups, the clients they deal with and a top down view of the how the firm operates as a business.

The structure of the clerkship was 12 weeks separated into two rotations of 6 weeks each. The other clerks and I rotated through a range of practice areas including: commercial, dispute resolution, financial products and services, planning and environment, property, construction, financial services recovery and workplace relations – to name a few. We all had dedicated and experienced buddies in each practice group who showed us the ropes and helped us with anything we needed to know.

My first rotation was in Financial Services Recovery. I am very interested in litigation and it became evident that working in this practice group was a good place to start as it teaches you how matters run from beginning to end and requires problem solving, strategy and significant time in court representing big clients. I was given the opportunity to meet new people every day and gain experience and advice from the most well respected senior practitioners in the field.

Two weeks into the clerkship, I was extremely lucky to be seconded to work in-house for one of our clients, eBay. This was an invaluable experience, not only because eBay is a cutting-edge online business but the opportunity allowed me to gain an understanding of the range of issues that face in-house counsel. Working in-house has always been something I have been interested in but did not think I would have the opportunity – especially as a clerk. It gave me a solid understanding of how international businesses operate and the legal and commercial challenges that they face. I was brought in on international teleconferences, was given a range of responsibilities working with the legal team and other groups within the business. The opportunity for secondment was truly the best experience and has taught me how to be a more dynamic lawyer and how to deliver practical commercial solutions to clients.

My second rotation was working in the Dispute Resolution team. I have been very lucky to be working with highly experienced solicitors and partners and have had the opportunity to attend important meetings with high-profile clients and barristers – most days I have been in either the Supreme or Federal Court. I have even been lucky enough to attend a sitting in the High Court of Australia with a senior partner for a large matter the firm is working on.

One of the best things about clerking at Gadens is that you can walk into anyone’s office; a solicitor, senior associate, partner or manager to ask them for advice on the work you are doing or what costume you are wearing to the Christmas party. Everyone is very approachable and eager to help you learn. There is no hierarchical structure at Gadens, everyone’s door is open - promoting a culture here that is fun and creative while remaining professional.

As a summer clerk, your calendar is filled with social events; lunches, presentations, inter-firm trivia, summer clerk sport, Christmas parties, client lunches, client drinks, cruises, team boat trips, Friday work drinks and socialising with the other clerks and new friends made at the firm. There is never a dull moment or a day without a birthday cake.

I have learned a lot during the clerkship, some of the most important things to pass on to future clerks include: being open to new challenges and experiences, always be yourself, be aware of your strengths and to get ready for an extremely enjoyable experience that will make all those years at uni worthwhile and give you the foundation you need in order to be a successful lawyer in the corporate world.

All of the clerks recruited in my intake were lucky enough to receive graduate offers and will be continuing to work for Gadens in their last year of study until they graduate.

The years of uni, career fairs, online applications, cocktail nights and the rounds of interviews are definitely worth it!

Lara Macalyk is a law student at Macquarie University.

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