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Sparke Helmore Lawyers

4.9
  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Hugh Marks

Whether it has been personally appearing at pre-trial conferences to seek orders or being able to observe a barrister demonstrate their skill at a hearing, it is exciting to be able to experience the law outside of a textbook or university lecture slides!

What's your job about?

Sparke Helmore is a national law firm with loyal and diverse clients that offers graduates opportunities in Commercial Insurance, Government, Workplace and Corporate & Commercial Practice Groups. The culture is very welcoming and I felt part of a team right from the start. I work in the Liability team within the broader Commercial Insurance Practice Group, specialising in advising clients on liability exposure as well as issues to do with professional indemnity. It’s a diverse area of law and has allowed me to get involved on many unique matters that keep the work interesting and engaging! A day’s work in my role may include drafting court forms such as defences and subpoenas, corresponding with clients or other parties, and preparing evidence and advice. All these tasks were somewhat foreign to me when I first started work, as law school tends to focus on the theory behind the law rather than how it’s actually put into practice. Thankfully my team guided me through the process, which now enables me to do the work independently and confidently. 

What's your background?

I grew up and went to school on Sydney’s North Shore before moving down to the nation’s capital in 2015 to begin my studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. Throughout university, I had various hospitality jobs and worked in the public service. I also studied Cyberlaw during a summer exchange program at the London School of Economics.

In 2019 I applied for the Sparke Helmore Graduate Program and was fortunate to be offered a place in the 2020 intake. Having now completed the program I can say it was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding year—learning a lot while meeting many friendly and supportive colleagues. It is remarkable that I have been able to learn and develop professionally in just over 12 months.  

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Provided one has the requisite legal qualifications there’s no reason why someone else from a different background could not do my job. This is especially true in the legal industry and specifically at our firm, which values diversity and looks to hire candidates that represent the communities in which we live and work. One of the best things about Sparke Helmore’s Graduate Program is all the new people you meet from different universities and walks of life.

In saying this, the ability to time manage and prioritise are crucial skills in this profession. Staying flexible and nimble is also really important in my experience as you can never accurately plan for what might be required of you on any given day. To manage this unpredictability, I’ve learned the importance of clarifying key tasks and deadlines.  
  
What's the coolest thing about your job?

Firsthand exposure to court procedure has probably been the highlight of my graduate year. Whether it has been personally appearing at pre-trial conferences to seek orders or being able to observe a barrister demonstrate their skill at a hearing, it is exciting to be able to experience the law outside of a textbook or university lecture slides! 

What are the limitations of your job?

This is not exactly a limitation, but rather something worth being aware of—something law school didn’t really cover. Recording time and billable targets become a major part of your career as a lawyer. I’ve found that you can use this “limitation” to your advantage though, as instead of counting down the hours until “5 o’clock” (which I often used to do in previous jobs!), it now becomes a gradual race against the clock to hit your targets by a reasonable hour. 

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

1. Expect rejection. In all seriousness, the vast majority of law students applying for clerkships or graduate positions get rejected by far more than they actually get accepted for. It’s important to acknowledge this when going through the process so you don’t get discouraged and too disappointed!

2. Don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, but work hard when you can so you never have to sacrifice all the fun stuff and freedom that being a university student offers! 

3. Always take advantage of the opportunities that are thrown your way at uni. Whether it be moving away from home to study, going on exchange, or partaking in various co-curricular experiences, this is the easiest time to get out there and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t hurt that these things can help differentiate your CV as well!