Many of us struggle to cope with the demands of work alone, but for Robert Allen, juggling work and studying full time at university is just a typical day.
Now in his fifth year and approaching graduation, Robert has worked at BAL Lawyers as a law clerk for just over 18 months. A law clerk is a student of law who works in a legal practice, enhancing their theoretical training with real-world experience.
Law students can begin working as law clerks from their first year at university, and continue working throughout their degree. They start with basic administrative tasks, gaining an appreciation for how a law office is run, and receiving mentoring by senior lawyers across a range of specialisms.
For example, BAL Lawyers’ core practice areas include commercial and business law, real estate law, local government law, planning and environmental law, employment and industrial law, estate planning and business succession, and commercial litigation. These areas are led by teams of specialist-accredited lawyers who mentor law clerks, helping them gain an understanding of how the practice works.
“There’s no better place to learn the craft of being a lawyer than in a law firm,” says Robert. “At uni, we get a great theoretical understanding, but it’s very different in practice. I’m still a junior, but you get to see the impacts – the people side – which you can’t get anywhere else. That’s very valuable.
“You’re also surrounded by people who have dedicated their professional lives to law. You can talk to them, be mentored by them, and learn how they’ve progressed in their career.
“Here [at BAL] I have a range of mentors in different specialisms, who are always happy to help me understand how things work. They’ll take the time to speak with me, explain what they’re doing and why, and help me improve in my work.”
Finding work as a law clerk
Given the high number of law students studying in Canberra’s coveted universities, securing a position as a law clerk is not always easy. However, BAL Lawyers regularly hires law clerks, with a belief that it’s every law firm’s responsibility to foster great future leaders of the legal profession.
Robert says he is incredibly grateful to have landed his position.
“It can be a competitive industry, but there are opportunities out there. I sent in my CV, and was fortunate to be called in for an interview.
“You don’t need to sit on job sites and wait for a job to be posted. You can cold call law firms that you think would be a good fit for you, and put your CV out there.”
Of juggling study and work, Robert typically works three days a week at BAL during the semester, and attends university on the other days.
“Sometimes I need to change my work days if I have a big exam coming up, or the class timetable changes. But then during holidays, I’m often able to work full time. I’m lucky that BAL are so accommodating, because I wouldn’t be able to do this if they weren’t.”
A typical day
BAL Lawyers is in Marcus Clarke Street, surrounded by good coffee shops. So Robert starts the day with a flat white and then heads into the office.
“It’s hard to give a picture of a typical day because every day is so different. I may walk in and continue with a project I’ve been working on for weeks.
“Or, one of the lawyers or directors may have an urgent matter they need my help with. So I’ll head straight into their office for a brief. They may give me a research task, or ask me to have a go at drafting a letter. Then they’ll offer guidance once I’m finished. I feel very much a part of the team here.”
Robert says finishing university next year will be bittersweet, but he’s looking forward to completing his practical legal training before he can be admitted as a lawyer.
“I’m not sure what area of law I want to work in yet. I love employment law and litigation work, but the next couple of years will give me the chance to make that decision.”
To learn more about BAL Lawyers, visit BAL Lawyers or call 02 6274 0999.
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