At the start of 2015 when my law school was abuzz with the prospect of completing clerkships, I had not decided if I was even going to apply. I had heard a lot about cocktail nights and canapés and interviews, but I didn’t know much about what completing a clerkship actually entailed or why I should sacrifice my beloved summer holidays to do one. Having spent the summer at Allens, I can definitely recommend doing a clerkship. It’s an invaluable way to see the inner workings of a commercial firm.
I was unspeakably nervous on the first day of my first rotation. I had never worked in a law firm before and I was concerned that I didn’t remember an awful lot from my first year Contracts class at university. I needn’t have worried. That first day I hardly got through any work because the people in my team kept stopping by to say hello, have a chat and see how I was going with everything. I was amazed at how genuinely interested everyone was in getting to know me and making sure I was feeling confident in my work.
This was indicative of the wider culture of the firm and I was deeply impressed by how supportive and enthusiastic everyone was, and how much time the lawyers were willing to take to explain tasks to me or answer my questions. The firm instigates a formal support network with a buddy, development lawyer and supervising partner, which was a great source of comfort and helped to keep me on track. But, beyond that, there were plenty of lawyers who were keen to get involved with the clerkship and offer their help and feedback.
One of the reasons I decided to go to Allens was because I saw it as a firm where there would be opportunities to work overseas, and having an international dimension to my career was important to me. I hadn’t ever guessed that my first chance to travel with Allens would be in my sixth week working for the firm. After the Christmas break, instead of boarding a train to Wynyard, I found myself boarding a plane to Ho Chi Minh City where I was to complete a three-week rotation.
The Ho Chi Minh City office was very different to the Sydney office. For one thing, it was a lot smaller, and the contracts were in both Vietnamese and English. I had an amazing time in Vietnam experiencing different food and a different culture, but also having the opportunity to experience first-hand how commercial law operates in a different legal system. I had some memorable experiences zipping through Saigon traffic on a motorbike and visiting tourist hotspots; certainly different to the weekends I would have been having at home! Although I didn’t come back particularly fluent in business Vietnamese, I definitely came home with a broader international perspective on commercial law, and felt privileged to have been able to experience life in one of the Asian offices.
I was exposed to lots of different work during my time at Allens. I helped to draft letters, write research memos, conduct title searches, proofread contracts, and attend meetings, among many other things. But the summer was much more than simply doing a job. It was an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the firm and we went to a number of seminars which helped to shed more light on the culture of the firm. We heard about Allens’ pro bono work and presence in the community and about the alliance with Linklaters, we heard from a panel of partners who gave us insight into their career progression with the firm, and we heard from a panel of graduates who answered any and all of our questions. I attended Christmas parties (yes, plural), was invited to welcome yum cha, and had many, many coffee catch-ups with lawyers and other clerks. Beyond the legal work and the firm, the clerkship is a great way to expand your social networks. We also went to inter-firm trivia nights and the clerk cruise, and had lots of other opportunities to get to know each other, and the clerks at other firms.
Allens is a firm full of opportunities. In 10 weeks I travelled internationally, went on an overnight trip to a client office, went on a tour of a coalmine, experienced a Women at Allens panel, visited the Sydney Children’s Hospital, and had the chance to work on pro bono matters. I can’t tell you exactly what to expect from an Allens clerkship, because you never know what opportunities will be there for you to take. The clerkship program gives you the chance to peer inside a commercial firm and to think about your future. I loved my time with the firm and can’t wait to start my career. A clerkship with Allens feels like unlocking the door to an incredible future and I would recommend it to anyone.