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K&L Gates

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Shani Horii-Watson

My favourite thing about being a junior lawyer is that you’re encouraged to ask questions.

My favourite thing about being a junior lawyer is that you’re encouraged to ask questions. It's an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the law and what it takes to be a good lawyer. I haven’t always been comfortable asking questions, so I thought I’d take the time to answer the questions I wish I had asked when I was a law student. 

What is it like to go through the K&L Gates clerkship application and interview process?

The K&L Gates clerkship process was truly refreshing because it was clear that the firm understood the challenging nature of the clerkship process and at every stage made the process manageable and accessible.

The firm made the written application approachable by providing numerous video resources to assist us and only requiring succinct responses to questions and a short cover letter.

We then had the option do our first interview across several weeks – which for someone like me who commuted from Canberra made a world of difference. The first interview was with a member of HR and a senior lawyer at the firm. There was no need to spend hours researching a long list of potential interviewers as 15 minutes before the start of the interview, you were given a summary of the interviewer’s experience and recent cases.

Rather than having a cocktail night, K&L Gates had a welcome breakfast immediately before the case study interview which is attended by lawyers across the firm. There is something about eating a bacon and egg roll with a partner that makes the whole experience a little less intimidating. I purposefully refer to the second interview as a ‘case study’ rather than a group interview as there is no butcher's paper and fun facts about yourself aren't required. In the case study, you are given a commercial problem with legal elements. It doesn’t require an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Priestley 11 just an understanding of the broad concepts and a healthy dose of common sense. The style of the question is similar to a problem question so the case study feels familiar. It is only a group activity in-so-far as you’re working through the problem at a table with half a dozen candidates and two senior lawyers.

Why did you choose to start your career at K&L Gates?

Every person you ask at K&L Gates will have a different answer to this question because what makes a firm the right fit differs for everyone - but here are my three favourite things about working at K&L Gates: 

  1. The global and integrated nature of K&L Gates: K&L Gates is an international law firm that is fully integrated and is not divided into geographical regions. This means that K&L Gates operates as one firm where work is freely allocated between offices depending on who is in the best position to serve the client. This allows lawyers from all over the world to collaborate. For example, I’m currently working on a matter that is being co-managed by a Partner in Seattle.
  1. Name recognition in the market: K&L Gates has existed in one form or another since 1883. The firm inherited the 'Gates' in K&L Gates from William Gates a successful lawyer, philanthropist and father of Bill Gates. With 44 offices around the world, the firm is a trusted brand and as a result, lawyers get unprecedented opportunities to work on interesting and ground-breaking matters.
  1. The culture and the people: The staff at K&L Gates are not only brilliant at their work but they are multi-dimensional with interesting hobbies and many have passionate projects they participate in. For example, I know lawyers who are figure skaters, host podcasts and some run fashion blogs. It creates an environment where you can be yourself and have a genuine work/life balance.

What is it like to be a graduate at K&L Gates?

I've never had two days that have been similar while a graduate. Work depends on your team, clients and business needs. The one thing that has never changed is the amount of support, training and trust you receive from day one. Supervisors take the time to ensure your responsibilities grow through your rotation and ensure that you are constantly learning. Everyone understands that you are often doing work for the first time so senior lawyers will sit down with you and talk through the areas you can improve rather than marking up documents in red pen.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to your law student self?

  1. Do more competitions because it will be a highlight:

They give you the opportunity to learn areas of law in incredible detail, improve your research and oral advocacy skills and have an absolute blast. It can also count towards course credit and you may be eligible for funding if you need to travel (including overseas) to compete.

  1. Do electives you enjoy rather than ones that you think will “look good”: 

What you learn at law school mainly acts as background information because the tasks allocated to junior lawyers such as drafting documents and doing discovery aren't taught at law school.  If you end up rotating in an area you have no experience in, the firm has infinite resources to help you get up to speed. Firms know this and aren't as focused as you think on your electives. 

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of hobbies outside the law:

It’s tempting to devote all your spare time to build your resume but it’s your interests outside of law that makes you stand out in an interview.

* This article was written in May 2020, when K&L Gates was operating under mandatory work from home protocols. We have tried to give you the best indication of what a 'Day in the Life' is like at our firm, and have reflected on what a typical day looks like for our people when we are working from our offices.