A day in the life: Lydia Abright-Le Page and Jasmin Mantoufeh
It’s our second week of chatting with participants of The Learned Crew’s (TLC) in-house clerkship program (created with UTS Law and the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia). This time we’ve talked with two UTS students, Lydia Abright-Le Page and Jasmin Mantoufeh, about their experience so far. We discuss how their view of a law career has changed, their daily schedule as an intern, and what a clerkship is really like.
What inspired you to start studying law?
At 14, I wanted to be a surgeon. Then I realized I could not, for the life of me, bear to watch the blood and gore involved in actually undertaking a surgery. At 16, I picked the elective ‘commerce’ in high school where I learnt the basics of legal studies, business studies and economics. Legal studies was extremely intriguing and I loved class debates so I began debating that year and was titled ‘debate captain’ until I graduated.
It was not until HSC legal studies where I realized this is the profession I saw myself in. My fascination with the complexity of the law (specifically corporate) and the analytical nature of the subject itself was highly challenging and stimulating…and everyone knows I LOVE a challenge. Fast forward to law school, there were definitely moments where I questioned whether I was fit for the profession but as I progressed through university and studied subjects more akin to my interests, I realized there’s no place I’d rather be!
I did Legal Studies in high school and always had a keen interest in the role and effect of the legal system in society, and how broad the practice areas are. I am particularly interested in intellectual property, family law and competition law. My interest areas are constantly fluctuating, and I find that the more experience I gain, the more in tune I am with what I am interested in for my career and also as importantly, what I am not interested in.
How have you found working in-house compared to working in the client-based sector?
Working in-house, your paramount focus is the interests of the company you are working for, not a range of clients with different issues, needs and goals. In private practice and social justice based environments, you are often managing multiple clients simultaneously, and jumping between legal matters. Whereas, as my clerkship with Origin Energy has taught me, working in-house still involves varied tasks and practice areas, but the client remains constant and their interests drive how you engage with your work.
What does an average day look like for you, while undertaking your clerkship?
- 7:00am: Alarm bell rings and up I get.
- 7:30am: Out of the house and head towards the station.
- 8:50am: Arrive at my internship, which happens to be in the heart of Sydney (I must say, it is quite an expensive walk headed through Westfield Sydney to get there!).
- 9:00am: Greet my co-workers; we typically go for a walk to the cafe next door and grab some coffee (as well as breakfast if the ladies have extra time to spare).
- 9:30am: Sit down with said co-workers to go through today’s agenda and priorities.
- 9:45am: Make a start on a project handed down. Today, I have been assigned the task of drafting a report consolidating all whistle blower policies for jurisdictions our offices are located in. That’s over 30 countries, so this might take a few days.
- 12:00pm: Lunch-time! There’s plenty of places around so it’s a matter of deciding on what I’m craving.
- 1:00pm: A co-worker informs me of an urgent matter that has been brought to her attention. All efforts are diverted to responding to the matter at hand.
- 3:30pm: Head into a meeting room with a co-worker and take a call with HR in India regarding an ethics complaint.
- 4:00pm: Sit down with my co-workers and go through a spreadsheet analysis in an attempt to fend off work that other departments are capable of completing.
- 5:00pm: Home time – on the dot!
What were you expecting this clerkship to be like? Is it everything you thought
I knew that the work I would be involved in would be to do with corporate legal matters, but I did not have a clear view of what that actually meant. Upon starting my clerkship, I learnt that ‘corporate’ meant anything to do with the function and operations of the company, so for example, contracts, mergers and acquisitions and dispute management.
I expected the office environment to be quite intimidating and for it to take quite a while to settle in and feel confident. However the office I am in fosters a welcoming and relaxed environment and everyone is here to do their jobs with no superficial intentions.
Also, I get to join the team on a trip to Melbourne next week where the national legal team is meeting up for two days. That was certainly unexpected and I am very excited for my first business trip!
Do you think this program will benefit your career?
I am a firm believer that all experience is good experience. Employers want to see that students have gone beyond the confines of their degree and sought out practical experience. That’s because you have a pool of knowledge that you can offer to an organisation that cannot be developed at university.
This is my fourth internship and I have definitely reached a point in my career where I have honed in on exactly where I want to work and the area of law that I intend to specialize in. This experience in particular has completely turned some preconceptions I had about my path upside down!
I knew heading into in-house counsel was worth considering post mid-30’s-ish considering the work-life balance it could offer once having children. Nonetheless, this experience has altered my mindset in that regard. I am highly (HIGHLY) considering getting into in-house counsel at a much earlier age.
Finally, how has your university experience so far prepared you for this clerkship?
University has helped me in terms of preparedness and knowledge. I am able to ask informed and ‘loaded’ questions (as a co-worker says), because I understand the complexity and legal implications of the matter at hand. Possessing a foundation of knowledge open to growth and development has aided me significantly.
When it was time to pick my law electives, I was set on doing as many internship/practical subjects to not only gain legal experience to include on my resume, but also to engage more with my learning instead of a contact hours based on-campus subject.
I have completed the Law & Justice Studies elective with a placement at Anti-Slavery Australia, and also the Local Internship elective with a placement at Redfern Legal Centre in the International Student Clinic. I highly recommend both of these subjects and have gained invaluable experience, subject credit and great friendships and professional connections through each internship.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
By Mia Casey