Allens Arthur Robinson has kicked off its annual Indigenous winter internship program by placing eight Indigenous law students within the firm's Sydney and Brisbane offices.
The program, which has been running since 2006, is a core part of Allens' pledge to provide employment opportunities to Indigenous people under the firm's Reconciliation Action Plan.
"Under the plan, we have five areas that we work under: pro bono, commercial relationships, leading in the profession, building cultural awareness and creating employment opportunities," graduate resourcing & development manager Bryony McCormack told Lawyers Weekly.
"Our program is designed for law students at any stage of their degree with the idea being that Indigenous law students are able to come into our offices for a couple of weeks and get a bit of a sense of what a commercial law firm is like and find out whether or not it is something they are interested in."
The interns, who go through a selection process similar to that of a summer clerk, will spend two weeks at the firm doing legal research, learning how to use the firm's systems and working within a practice group alongside a "buddy" and a mentor.
Sydney-based intern Merinda Dutton, who is in her fourth year of study at the University of New South Wales, said the program provides her with a unique and valuable opportunity.
"I thought the program was a great opportunity to get an insight into what a law firm is like, because I haven't yet had that opportunity," she said. "Also, it's a chance for me to build on my legal skills and to meet people in law firms and create a network for myself for when it comes time to apply for clerkships."
According to McCormack, even if the interns come to realise that working in a commercial firm is not for them, the program still has value for both them and the firm.
"The experience might be that they absolutely love it and they want to come through our clerkship program and potentially as a grad. Equally, it might be that they find that commercial law is not for them, but they have still had a taste of what it's like, worked with some of the people here and made some connections which they can hopefully use in their future careers," she said.
"There is value for us in that we get access to Indigenous candidates early on. We know that there is fabulous talent out there, and quite often we have found that we are not able to find Indigenous law students to come through our clerkship program.
"We want to be able to make contact with them earlier on and see if they are interested in working for us. It is access to great students which we otherwise may not have found."
And for Dutton, so far, so good. "It is actually better than I had expected," she said. "I am really enjoying it."
The firm will also take on interns in Melbourne and Perth later in the year.