‘Little downside’ to young lawyers gaining experience through firm exchange
A lawyer exchange program is gaining global traction, with a number of associates and senior associates gaining work experience at different firms to boost their careers and gain a variety of experience.
The lawyer exchange program originated in Australia and New Zealand pre-pandemic and was established by member firms of global independent law firm alliance Meritas – which includes six law firms across Australia and New Zealand: Swaab, Bennett & Philp Lawyers, DMAW Lawyers, Madgwicks, Williams+Hughes and Martelli McKegg.
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The two-week lawyer exchange program was launched in Australia in 2019, when Sydney firm Swaab and New Zealand firm Martelli McKegg exchanged lawyers in a bid to show that smaller firms could offer the same opportunities for travel, learning and growth for their early career lawyers that were claimed by larger international firms.
The program not only offered participants a taste of working in another city, it also helped build the network between the firms and fostered an exchange of best practices on everything from matter management to training.
After a COVID-19-induced hiatus in 2020 and 2021, the program returned last year, and the second official Australian exchange concluded last month.
In Australia, lawyer Caitlin McNamara from Bennett & Philp Lawyers in Brisbane exchanged with senior associate Daniel Miller of Swaab in Sydney; Kiren Narayan of Martelli McKegg in Auckland went to DMAW Lawyers in Adelaide; Jaspreet Kaur of Madgwicks in Melbourne went to Martelli McKegg; and Stephanie Maurangi of DMAW Lawyers to Madgwicks.
According to Mr Miller, it was an experience that developed networking and business development opportunities.
“I met and got to know a number of lawyers and professional staff who are involved in proceedings in NSW on a regular basis, as well as meeting a number of clients and prospective clients of the host firm,” he said.
Ms Narayan said the program offered insights into what Meritas offered member firms.
“It was really good to learn about what Meritas can offer its member firms and also to see how they ran their firm,” she said.
“It was good to participate in their internal meetings and education events as well.”
Ms Kaur added that she felt well supported throughout the program.
“I was provided continuous support throughout my two-week exchange by a range of partners and lawyers at the firm I visited,” she said.
“The networking opportunity was invaluable. I was able to make connections with lawyers within different departments of the firm.”
Ms Maurangi said it was valuable to work on some matters outside her usual practice area.
“The opportunity to actively engage in a substantial M&A transaction and gain insights into the firm’s business development approach exceeded expectations,” she said.
“They provided a valuable opportunity for professional growth and a broader understanding of legal practice.”
Now, firms from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Norway are joining those already in the program from the UK and Ireland to introduce the two-week exchange.
Meritas ANZ co-chair and DMAW Lawyers principal Daniel Jenkinson said the program offered so many benefits for young lawyers and participating firms he was sure it would ultimately become an annual event for many of its firms.
“There is little downside in this program, which ultimately increases the connectivity of our firms in a positive way while offering young lawyers a unique form of professional development,” he said.