The line between in-house and private practice is not as clear-cut as it used to be, and Haaron Bokhari is one lawyer who's making the most of both worlds.
Bokhari is a founding director of Perth firm Balance Legal, an incorporated law firm in which lawyers work for different clients on a project-by-project secondment basis, working out of the clients' premises.
Having launched his legal career as a graduate at Freehills in 2001, Bokhari believes that the difficulty he had in deciding where to specialise was probably an early indication that he might be better suited to an in-house style position.
He eventually settled on banking, where he remained - focusing primarily on project financing in the resources sector - for a further five years, before leaving in mid-2008 to sign on as a director of Balance Legal.
Bokhari is now into his third secondment with Balance Legal, currently working for global energy giant Chevron on the Gorgon Project - the development of the Greater Gorgon gas fields in Western Australia. His previous secondments have been at construction company McMahon Services, where he was working in a broader general counsel role, and at Rio Tino, where he was working predominantly in procurement.
Bokhari says he was drawn to Balance Legal because the in-house secondment structure maximises the aspects of working as a lawyer that he most enjoys.
"One of the positive aspects of my job at Freehills was the interaction with the clients and the people within the team. But that's not always the way it works. You often have to sit down and have no contact for a few days when you're drafting a big document," he says. "I think generally speaking - and it has been confirmed with what I've been doing - there's more of a chance for interacting and working together on a more regular basis in an in-house role."
The structure is not without its challenges, and the biggest, Bokhari says, is having to regularly pick up shop and plunge into something completely new. "You do chop and change every six months or so ... and the biggest challenge is getting up to speed very quickly on the way things work in a new place. It's challenging to get up to speed and embrace new systems and new personalities," he says.
However, he also views this regular change of pace as refreshing, believing it is a benefit for both the lawyers and clients involved. "It's easy to be enthusiastic when you know something isn't going to last forever, so you can really get what you can out of it," he says.
"I also think that, as you go, you'll also have the ability to bring with you lessons learned from other [secondments]. I have no doubt that will be a handy thing for business ... because the [lawyers] will have done it before and will be able to bring that experience across, not just specific to work, but also to systems and structures," he says.
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