This is the time I usually leave to cycle to work at AGS Sydney in the CBD. But since we’ve mostly been working from home during the pandemic, I’ve had to adapt my routine. Getting a good start to the day is really important for my physical and mental health. Today, this means getting out of my apartment for a run around my local park, then picking up a fresh loaf of sourdough for my breakfast on my way home.
I make a coffee in my coffee machine and carry it to my desk in the corner of my living room. I live on the fourth floor with a lovely view of the trees outside, which is very different from skyscrapers and glimpses of the harbour on the upper levels of our Sydney CBD office. I check to see if any of my other grad colleagues are online – they are, so I shoot them a ‘Good morning!’ message on Lync, our internal messaging system. I instantly get 7 ‘Good mornings!’ in return. The other grads are split between Canberra and Sydney, but our morning group chats – that usually extend throughout the day – help us feel connected. Having a bunch of other junior lawyers on call is also very helpful if one of us gets stuck on a legal research task or is struggling to work Adobe!
I’ve reviewed my to-do list from last night, and checked my emails for any urgent overnight tasks, in preparation for my regular morning 5-minute check-in call with my supervisor. These chats would usually have occurred more informally in the office, but we have formalised things now that we’re working from home. My supervisor is a Senior Lawyer in the Civil Claims team in the AGS Dispute Resolution. We discuss my tasks for the day, the most important one being to update a brief to counsel with a short memorandum on documents I’ve uncovered while doing document review. The matter involves a tort claim of malicious prosecution and false imprisonment against our client, a federal law enforcement agency. We are in the process of drafting the Defence to the plaintiff’s Statement of Claim, so it is important that counsel are aware of all the material facts.
As I’m finishing off the draft memorandum, I receive a phone call from another Civil Claims Senior Executive Lawyer asking if I have the capacity to assist to prepare a bundle of authorities for a migration matter in the High Court. The due date for the documents is the end of the week, but the form and procedure for preparing High Court documents for filing are notoriously tricky. I send off the memorandum for my supervisor to review and approve, before reading up on the High Court rules for preparing authorities and filing documents. I get started by pulling together all the documents in our document management system and preparing an index in the correct form. It’s worth preparing court documents well ahead of time so that they can be approved and signed by all the relevant parties, but there’s always the prospect of a last-minute scramble – no matter how prepared you are!
Because I’ve got a Core Legal Skills training session on Federal Jurisdiction at 1 pm, I have an early lunch on my apartment balcony with my housemate/WFH colleague.
I head back inside and set up my wireless headphones to dial into our virtual meeting room for the training session. Today, the presenter is a Senior Lawyer presenting from her Canberra home, and we have AGS colleagues from Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney offices dialling in from home or from their offices. The Core Legal Skills training sessions cover a range of topics essential for government lawyers to be confident in – including statutory interpretation, government agreements, the Legal Services Directors and Commonwealth and Commonwealth Bodies. Today’s session is interesting but complex, and I make a mental note to read over the materials carefully when I get some free time.
The last few hours of the workday are spent working with my fellow AGS Dispute Resolution graduates to prepare an update on Commonwealth, State and Territory responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The update, which started in early March, is circulated by email to all AGS staff and published on the AGS website. It reflects all major legal and policy announcements on matters like emergency declarations and public health orders, economic assistance measures, temporary legislation on things like electronic signatures for remote working and tenancy law – and contains material useful for lawyers across AGS to be aware of.
My final tasks for the day are writing up tomorrow’s to do list, and finalising my time entries and narrations. Graduate lawyers at AGS have a billing target of 4 hours, but this is entirely nominal. Instead of obsessively focusing all our time on billing clients, we are encouraged to take time for professional development, such as taking the day to observe virtual court proceedings, or business development, like researching and drafting materials for AGS client publications. Through this, the graduates get the opportunity to meet and work closely with AGS lawyers and members of the AGS corporate services team that we might not have otherwise.
I like to end my day with another walk – a surrogate commute in a way – listening to a podcast. It’s a way to unwind from work mode and into relax mode. I think about what I’ve learnt throughout the day, which evolves into planning dinner from my new Ottolenghi cookbook. Although working from home has its downsides – we don’t get to see our colleagues as much – I love having more time in the evening to indulge in my hobbies like cooking!