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Clifford Chance

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Jack Oakley

Anybody driven by a strong motivation to learn and to succeed can perform well in this job but you do need to be willing to make sacrifices in your personal life.

What's your job about?

I am an Associate within the Litigation and Dispute Resolution team at the Sydney office of an international Magic Circle firm. I work primarily in the field of commercial litigation with a demonstrated expertise in class actions and cases concerning allegations of audit negligence. The great thing about Clifford Chance is that you are imbued with the ability to carve out a path for your career, which means you are generally given a lot of autonomy with respect to day-to-day carriage of matters generally. An average day will see me drafting and/or considering correspondence between other parties to a dispute, researching unique or contentious points of law, preparing and responding to various interlocutory applications and communicating directly with the client or witnesses on the phone, oftentimes under direct supervision of the billing partner only (i.e. without any middleman!). I will often get to travel interstate for hearings and even internationally for secondments or training courses (read: I spent six months working in Tokyo after only 12 months of working at the firm as a graduate lawyer. And yes, it was awesome!)

What's your background?

I was born in the country town of Albury on the border of New South Wales and Victoria but I grew up in Sydney and Newcastle. I spent a few years living in Islamabad, Pakistan with my family, attending an international school whilst my father carried out a fixed-term contract assisting the Pakistani Navy with an engineering project. I also undertook a gap year working in both Singapore and China working in, respectively, the shipping and entertainment industries. Playing rugby for the Beijing Devils on tour in Seoul was something I will never forget. My other hobbies include scuba diving and watching Formula 1.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Anybody driven by a strong motivation to learn and to succeed can perform well in this job but you do need to be willing to make sacrifices in your personal life. You don't need a private school education and you don't need wealth or influence (despite some impressions). You just need to be able to demonstrate that you are smart, practical and willing to adapt to changing circumstances easily.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

Being present in Court watching barristers exercise their craft (i.e. deploying orally the strategies that you have been working up together for months) and gauging the receptiveness of the Court to your submissions is probably the most rewarding sight for any litigator.  It is especially exciting when you see a witness from the opposing side being cross-examined, as this is usually where litigation in won or lost. It really makes all the long hours worthwhile when you get a result for which you've been working so hard, and even if you are unsuccessful, there will always be another opportunity for victory just around the corner.

What are the limitations of your job?

A career at the top end of the legal profession is extremely demanding on your time, as well as your physical and mental health. Fortunately, there are various systems in place to help you manage along the way, including flexible working arrangements, social sports and employee assistance programmes. Having said that, if you aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed (read: if you don't want to find yourself at work on weekends from time-to-time or regularly eating dinner at the office), then perhaps this is not the career path for you.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Make the most of your time at university because working full-time (particularly in the law) is a guaranteed shock to the system in terms of increases in expectation. Study hard but don't forget to have a good time while you are still a teenager!  By your mid-20s, it's near-on impossible to be able to work properly with a hangover, but you could probably still manage to get through a lecture or two…
  • Try to get as much travel done as possible whilst you're at university where you have access to scholarships and/or government funding to enable you to undertake exchanges at universities in far-off parts of the world. If you don't, you'll end up wishing you'd seen more of the world (i.e. in a non-work context) when you find yourself starved for free time later on in life (like me!)
  • Most importantly, try to discover what you really want to do with your life by getting out into the world and dipping your toe in the pond of a variety of different career paths. The sooner you can find out who you want to be, the quicker you will become that person once you've completed your tertiary education.