What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Matthew Green. I am a graduate in the Technology + Digital group at Gilbert + Tobin (G+T). I studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney. I graduated in June 2017.
Where did you grow up? What were some important stages in your life?
I grew up on the Central Coast and later in Sydney for high school. I studied at the University of Sydney and, during my time there, I was fortunate enough to go on exchange twice. My semesters on exchange were the defining experiences of my time at university and I would recommend an exchange semester to anyone. On exchange in the United States in 2012/13, I studied American politics and had the opportunity to go and watch Barack Obama’s second inauguration. On exchange in the Netherlands in 2017 I studied law and governance in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and bookended my semester abroad with three months of travel to all three of these continents.
How did you get to your current job position?
I started at G+T as a clerk over the summer of 2015/16 and received a graduate offer at the end of that summer clerkship. I began my time as a graduate at the firm in August 2017.
Applying for your job
How did you choose your specialisation?
By the end of the law firm recruitment process I had a very clear sense of what was important to me and what I valued. I knew I wanted to work at a firm where I could be exposed to the largest and most interesting commercial transactions and disputes. I also wanted to be at a place where I would have genuine responsibility and ownership over my work from an early stage. When these things had settled in my mind, G+T stood out clearly as a leader in the pack.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
Both rounds of the interview process were very relaxed. The first interview, with a partner and a lawyer, felt like a normal conversation. We talked mostly about my time at university, my previous jobs, and what I wanted to do at G+T. I was asked about my interest in working in corporate law, and in working at G+T specifically, and if I had any ideas about the practice groups I would like to rotate through. The second round interview was even more conversational; we spoke about my semester on exchange, the time I used to work in a shoe shop after high school, and about current events going on in the news.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
From my own experience of having studied finance, I would always recommend basic business and commerce subjects. While it certainly isn’t necessary for you to succeed in a legal career, I think the terminology and concepts you become familiar with in subjects with a commercial focus, help a lot in the context of a corporate law firm whose major clients are large corporations.
Outside of formal study, I think the most important skills a law student can develop during their time at university are their legal research skills. Clerks, graduates and junior lawyers at the firm are often called upon for legal research tasks. Being able to find the right answer quickly is really helpful in the early years. I would also recommend becoming familiar with the financial press and getting into the habit of reading the financial news on a regular basis. Finally, juniors at law firms are frequently the ones challenging the olds ways of doing work and finding new ways to do it more efficiently. A good understanding of computers, a basic understanding of coding, and knowing lots of ‘hidden’ functions in frequently used programs, will help you alot in managing projects at work and cutting down the time taken to complete your tasks.
In terms of work experience, the most important thing to say is that any work experience you have had in a collaborative and team-based environment will be helpful. At G+T, we sit in open plan spaces where almost everything we do is team-based project work. The partners give juniors a lot of responsibility when it comes to dividing up work streams, managing tasks, and getting work done on time. If you are comfortable with this style of working, and enjoy working with other people in a team towards a common outcome, you will be well prepared for a career here.
What does your employer do?
G+T is a full service commercial law firm with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. I currently work in the Technology + Digital group where we assist large companies with the procurement of IT systems and with negotiating large contracts and agreements.
What are your areas of responsibility?
Graduates are responsible for a pretty wide variety of tasks. Some of the more typical pieces of work I am involved with include early drafting for legal agreements and letters, reviewing contracts for legal risks, writing reports summarising legal risks in a proposed transaction, and tackling challenging legal research tasks on specific corporate, contracts, and equity issues.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
The types of people who do well in corporate law are organised, calm under pressure, and have great attention to detail. There are very busy times throughout the year where you will be juggling multiple tasks at once with tight deadlines. Being able to work through them collaboratively at a methodical pace is paramount to doing well in this kind of environment.
Pros and cons
What do you love the most about your job? What tasks do you enjoy the most?
The thing I love most about my job is that I get to work with smart people in a field where the work is often interesting and challenging. Of the work I do frequently at the moment, I think the most memorable tasks are always the challenging legal research tasks where I spend hours wrapping my head around legislation, cases, and commentary to find an answer, before distilling all of that research down into one or two paragraphs to be inserted into a letter to the client, or walked through on a phone call.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
One of the defining aspects of my experience at G+T is that juniors are given a lot of responsibility on their work from the very beginning. Perhaps the biggest limitation of such responsibility is it can sometimes get in the way of weeknight plans, as the work often has tight turnaround times. Despite this, work in all professional services firms is becoming more and more flexible, and working from home is easier now than it has ever been with G+T’s agile software and systems.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I wasn’t in my current career, I think I would have enjoyed being a highschool teacher.
A word to the wise...
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even career-focused.