University of Melbourne juris doctor student Sam Elder spent his summer clerking with Hunt & Hunt Lawyers. Here is Sam’s take on the summer clerk experience…
Looking back I do not know what I was worried about. When it came to walking into the Hunt & Hunt reception on my first day I was drenched in sweat, my hands were shaking and I was suddenly very timid. I had the idea in my head that a clerkship was a month long interview; thinking everything was a test, and that all I said and did would be noted down and analysed. I thought I had a right to be a nervous. For that first day I was unusually introverted and did not say boo. Luckily work flowed in over the first week and I was able to occupy myself with memos and research.
After that week I calmed down and could observe more of the subtlety of the clerkship experience as a whole. Yes, the partners and lawyers were interested in the quality of the work I did and whether it was on time. Yes, they were watching how I held myself and if I acted professionally. These were obvious, but they could be taught and controlled. The one thing that was being observed which comes naturally is how, and whether, I got on with the people around me.
At Hunt & Hunt I was very lucky as I had the opportunity to work with a large group of people who were working in different positions and who were all more than willing to have a chat and help me out. I was working with legal secretaries, grads, lawyers, senior associates and partners. Each of these people had a wealth of knowledge. In the first week I realised that the culture at Hunt & Hunt was very supportive and that the people around me were the best resource I had. All it took was one little memo to teach me this important lesson and showed me the true culture of Hunt & Hunt as a law firm.
My partner asked me to put together a memo on an extremely specific tax issue. I had not done tax law. I did not know where to start and before I knew it I had sunk hours into the behemoth that is Australian tax law. I was wasting time and had other important jobs to do. Having wasted half a day, the watershed moment came when I muscled up the courage to go and ask someone for help. I knocked on the door of a lawyer I had already chatted with and made sure he was not too busy. I asked a few questions. He replied simply: “have a look at the ATO website”. I followed his advice and had a look at the website. The answer was there. Memo done.
On paper that anecdote looks small and unimportant, but there is a “management” word for what I did and learned that day. It is a very important lesson because it will help me to be more efficient and knowledgeable. That is the reason that partners are watching how you get on with the other staff. Because they know that if you are good at getting along with people then you become more than just your own knowledge and skills.
Want to share your summer clerkship experience? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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