FREEHILLS COULD have awarded its biannual Peter J Perry Fellowship to a senior litigation lawyer, but recipient Leah Watterson says her success is a reflection of the firm’s commitment to its young lawyers.
The third year litigation solicitor from Freehills’ Melbourne office plans to use the Fellowship, which is worth $40,000 and up to six months paid leave, to study a Masters of Law specific to her practice area of corporate regulatory litigation in the United States.
“It’s exciting, it’s not something that happens every day, but to be honest, I think the Fellowship says less about my personal achievement and more about Freehills’ commitment to training us as young lawyers,” Watterson said.
Watterson was required to submit a proposal outlining why she wanted to complete the course, and the benefits it would have for her and the firm. The award is open to all litigation lawyers with at least two years’ experience up to and including senior associates.
“To be selected as a third year shows the keen interest of the partners in improving the technical skills across every level [of the practice],” she said.
Ideally, Watterson will be admitted to the Masters of Law securities and financial regulation program at Georgetown University, but has also applied for a similar course at Harvard. She expects to find out which course she has gained entry to by the start of 2006. “I think that the area of corporate regulation, particularly from a litigation perspective, is something that is going to grow in the Australian market,” Watterson said.
“The US courses offered have a range of subjects that are specific to my area of practice, even though the jurisdictions are different.
“With the sheer number of companies that are regulated in the US and also the complexity of some of their litigation, we felt that the benefits would translate to our work here.” She said it would be useful to study how lawyers in the US run their securities litigation and determine whether similar strategies could be applied in Australia.
“Also, it’s just the ability to improve one’s technical skill and to advance our ability, as a firm, to help young lawyers improve their legal analysis, communication skills and networks with foreign lawyers and academics,” Watterson said. “I will have access to different ideas and different solutions that other attorneys have come up with to combat certain issues and tap into that environment that we would not necessarily have access to here.”
Recipients of the Fellowship are assessed on all round performance, contribution and conduct in the firm’s practice. It was established in 2001 in memory of litigation partner Peter Perry, who was a partner in the Sydney practice from 1978 until his death from cancer in 2000.