Now the studying is over, many graduates are preparing themselves for the big step into law firms. Deacons HR adviser Anita Conte sheds some light on what that they can expect
The transition from university student to law graduate is an exciting one. However, as a graduate lawyer you will be faced with challenges that you have not encountered previously.
When you start at a law firm as a graduate your first contact with the firm is usually through an induction program. At the majority of law firms, including Deacons, the induction program takes place within the first week of a graduate commencing and includes general information about the firm, its policies and procedures, as well as training on internal systems for billing and document management purposes.
Structure of Graduate Program
Rotations are a common part of most law firms’ graduate programs, however the number of rotations and structure can vary from firm to firm. Graduates experience a wide variety of legal work by participating in rotations and once they have completed the graduate program, can then make an informed decision about where to specialise. Rotations are usually decided taking into account graduates’ preferences, as well as the business requirements at the time. Regardless of the area of practice you are working in, you will be able to take advantage of the skills and experience you acquire.
Support and guidance
As a Deacons graduate or articled clerk you can expect responsibility and client contact at an early stage. As Jennie Govey, one of the 2005 Deacons graduates states: “I think it would be rare for other law graduates in a top 10 firm in Sydney to say they have experienced the churning stomach nerves of appearing in court, the satisfaction of having your advice sent to the client with hardly any amendments, the feeling of responsibility of managing your own files and the sense of goodness from acting pro bono for clients who you know genuinely appreciate your work on the matter — within their first two months of work”. Graduates at Deacons also have the opportunity to work directly with partners and senior lawyers on a variety of both litigious and non-litigious work. Of course with responsibility comes support, guidance and supervision from the firm to their graduates ensuring they develop the knowledge and skills to provide a strong foundation for the career that lies ahead. Part of this support includes peer mentoring programs or a buddy system, where graduates have an allocated staff member that is a source of support and assists the graduate in settling into the work environment.
Training and development
Other support and guidance from a firm comes in the form of training. Ongoing training is imperative to the development of graduates and as a graduate in a law firm you can expect to undertake both formal and informal training. For example, Deacons runs the Core Skills program that has been developed and tailored specifically for Deacons’ articled clerks and graduates. The program aims to develop fundamental legal skills, and includes such modules as client interviewing skills, negotiation skills, legal drafting, advocacy skills and professional communication.
In addition to the Core Skills program, Deacons’ articled clerks and graduates participate in firm and business unit Continuing Legal Education as well as external professional development seminars and courses.