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Attorney-General's Department (AGD)

  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Jamie Paul Watts

I love working with some of the greatest legal minds in Australia. It is an excellent opportunity to learn from them in a practical way.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a livestock farm near Muswellbrook, New South Wales. My mother is from a family of farmers extending back several generations and my father is a drover and former bull rider.  

How did you get to your current job position?

In 2011, I commenced university studies at the University of New England on a Country Scholarship.

In 2014, I was a law clerk for a skilled criminal law solicitor who has since gone on to the bar, Mr Jason Curtis. I also completed studies at Shanghai University.

In 2015, I was a court officer for the New South Wales Department of Justice where I gained invaluable experience engaging with all aspects of the local community.

In 2016, I was a legal associate for Deputy President Dr P McDermott RFD of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

I commenced working at AGS as a graduate lawyer in January 2017 and have worked in a Brisbane lawyer in the Employment and Entitlements team since January 2018.  

How did you choose your specialisation?

Working at AGS was always a dream of mine (or a pipe dream?) because of the unique role it has as the Australian Government’s central legal service.

I was impressed by the skill and experience of AGS lawyers at the AAT as well as the diverse range of applications they act in. I knew that working at AGS would give me the opportunity to develop into the best lawyer that I could be.

What was your interview process like? 

My interview for the AGS graduate program was conducted by 3 experienced government lawyers and a scribe was also present. I travelled from Brisbane to Canberra to attend the interview in person which I hoped would demonstrate to the panel that I was keen for the job.  

The questions asked in the interview were directed towards my understanding of what AGS is and stands for, as well as how I could fit into that environment. Like most government jobs, my willingness to move to Canberra was also surveyed.

What does your employer do?

AGS is the Australian Government’s central legal service and part of the Attorney-General’s Department. It is a centre of excellence and expertise in areas of law of importance to the Commonwealth and in managing complex, systemic and precedential issues for the Commonwealth.

What are your areas of responsibility?

In my core practice I am the responsible lawyer for between 20 to 30 matters in which AGS acts for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Comcare and the National Disability Insurance Agency in applications before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court.

I also dabble in a range of other matters thanks to the opportunities available at AGS. Most Fridays you will see me appearing for the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in winding up proceedings before the Federal Court. I also recently instructed counsel in a High Court interlocutory hearing where AGS acted for a parliamentary joint committee.

Can you describe a typical work day? 

A typical day at work at AGS involves a combination of:

  • drafting advices or submissions
  • reviewing and analysing material
  • conferencing with clients, counsel or experts
  • consulting with senior colleagues
  • attending alternative dispute resolution processes and/or
  • instructing counsel and at times appearing before a court or tribunal.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

There are a host of opportunities to progress within AGS both upward and sideways into other practice areas (AGS cover some 40 different areas of law related to government).

AGS is well known for its significant investment in its lawyers’ professional development which opens a plethora of opportunities as a consequence. A number of AGS lawyers have subsequently gone on to the bar.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

AGS lawyers come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Country blokes like myself are a scarce commodity!

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I would mostly likely be a professional footballer… on the PlayStation… actually I’m not very good at that either.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love working with some of the greatest legal minds in Australia. It is an excellent opportunity to learn from them in a practical way.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job?

Expectations of the government, and by extension AGS, are extremely high. This is deservedly so. Meeting these expectations often involves a lot of hard work, grit and determination.

I am responsible for all of my matters but this responsibility is shared with the supervising lawyer on the matters as well as AGS more broadly. Fortunately there are some excellent risk management resources and procedures in place at AGS that make the burden of responsibility easy to bear.

I work on 1 day around 1 in every 3 weekends on average but this varies at different times of the year.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

Make an effort to build a rapport with your colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. Having positive working relationships is not only good for business but it’s also good for you.