I graduated from the Australian National University in Canberra in 2018 with a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics/Bachelor of Laws (Hons) (a bit of a mouthful I know!).
I grew up and started school in Bangkok, Thailand, before moving to Perth and finishing high school. I moved to Canberra thinking I would only stick around for University – now I’m voted by my friends as ‘least likely to ever leave Canberra!’ While I was at University I was lucky enough to spend 6 months on exchange in Canada at the University of Alberta, as well as travelling for summer schools and conferences to Duke University and the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). I then worked in various agencies in a number of different roles across the Australian Public Service while I was studying – as a receptionist, a tour guide, and a policy officer.
I have been in my current position for about 3 weeks… so am still finding my feet! Being a graduate at Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) during 2019 has made the transition much easier. Knowing how to use the systems, who to turn to for help and silly first-day things like where the kitchen is, has definitely helped make the jump from graduate to a lawyer a lot easier.
I always thought that I would go into a career in policy or foreign affairs. It wasn’t until the final year of my law degree that I considered a career in law. I chose to pursue law because it combined opportunities to think critically and problem solves, with the need to work collaboratively with colleagues and clients. The law is all about people and relationships, and that’s what I enjoy.
Because I came into AGS as part of the graduate program, the application and interview process was quite extensive. There was a written application, video interview and some online testing before shortlisted applicants were invited to interview at an assessment centre. The assessment centre itself involved a group activity, written exercise and individual interview.
AGS is the Australian Government’s central legal service – we provide legal services to the Commonwealth. AGS is made up of 3 practices; the Office of General Counsel, AGS Dispute Resolution and AGS Commercial. The practices work together across areas of law including public law, property, tax and litigation.
I work in AGS Dispute Resolution, in the Employment and Entitlements team. We advise on and provide litigation and dispute settlement services in the areas of employment and industrial relations, and compensation.
The best thing about working in AGS Dispute Resolution is that no day is ‘typical’ – though I do always start my day with a coffee run with other junior lawyers in the office! There is any number of tasks that I will do during the day though, and there are always interesting matters that we work on at any given time. I spend my days drafting advice or correspondence to clients, the Courts, opposing parties and experts. I will confer with my colleagues and with Counsel in chambers or our in-house Counsel team. I attend Court or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to watch AGS lawyers in action, I go to team meetings, training and morning teas. I’m currently working on a big matter which is going to hearing shortly. There is a lot to do to prepare for a hearing, and it involves a lot of different players – the parties, their solicitors, Counsel, the Court and all of our support staff. It’s been really eye-opening to see how these players interact to ensure a dispute is settled as smoothly as possible.
It is possible to stay at AGS for your whole career, and have a really fulfilling one, though there is no pressure to stay or to go! AGS offers so many opportunities to grow and develop as a lawyer and as a litigator, and we have seen some colleagues stay at AGS until retirement, some called to the Bar and some appointed to the Bench. Some choose to move into different areas of the law or pursue careers in public policy or the private sector. AGS opens doors both inside the organisation and outside.
Working at AGS as a lawyer does require a law degree, and admission to practice. However, I came in as a graduate with no formal legal experience, and while it was a steep learning curve, I felt very well supported through the year and ready to take on the challenges of being a lawyer.
This is a million-dollar question! If I wasn’t at AGS I think I would still be in the public service – I am motivated by serving the public interest and could see myself working in policy or government if I wasn’t a lawyer. Either that, or maybe working at a Non-Governmental Organisation, or international aid organisation!
I love coming to work every day and working on things that are challenging and exciting. Working in public law means that the work you do matters, and I am so glad that I get to serve the public interest. It’s really special to see something you work on during the day make the news at night. The thing I love most about my job though is the people that I get to work with. I work with very impressive, very clever, and very interesting people, who will always make time for each other and are always seeking out opportunities to learn. They provide the best service to their clients, and they are a great support network to each other.
I am a very social person, so the biggest limitation of my job is any time I need to work independently and focus all of my attention on one thing. However, most of the time I am able to work collaboratively and share my thoughts with colleagues. I am always on the phone to other junior lawyers to ask for their advice and opinions, and senior lawyers always have time to sit down with me to give feedback and observations on the work I have done. The transition from graduate to a lawyer has brought with it a lot more responsibility, but I have enjoyed the challenge, and never felt that I have been thrown in the deep end without someone to assist. I have never had to work on the weekend, and it isn’t very often I have to stay back very late. AGS puts a real emphasis on mental health and wellbeing, and that involves having a life outside of work, as well as managing stress levels at work. We have support from colleagues, supervisors, team leaders and our national managers, which means we never feel like we are alone.
I think the most important thing is to never let anything get in the way of doing the things you love. There is always time for you to catch up with your friends, play music, run, cook, paint. You will be a happier person and people will want to spend time around you. In the same vein, my second piece of advice is to call your mum! Or other close family members and good friends, especially if you don’t live in the same city. It’s always so nice to hear their voices and see what they’ve been up to and keeps everything in perspective. My third piece of advice is to look after yourself. Eat well, exercise, get outdoors and get enough sleep. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.