18 August 2015

Work Experience: Both sides of the coin

Published on 18 August 2015
Whether you are supervising a work experience student or completing the work experience yourself, it’s not always clear what a placement involves or what’s expected of both parties. This week, to get a perspective from both sides of a recent  work experience placement, Insights spoke to Elisa Rothschild, Principal Solicitor at Elisa Rothschild Lawyers in Melbourne, and student Joseph Reicher about Reicher’s placement at her practice.

From the outset, Rothschild was on the lookout for a PLT student who prioritised efficiency, punctuality and, most importantly, someone with the ability to work autonomously.

“I was concerned about whether clerks would be able to quickly adapt to the requirements of the work and if they truly had a desire to learn,” she said.

Fortunately, Reicher was prepared to meet the challenge head on and approached the placement enthusiastically.

“Before the placement, I hoped to be able to gain a broad understanding and appreciation of how the law operates in practice, and I expected to undertake real legal work in a supervised environment that would enable me to truly reach my potential and help me develop the skills necessary for future practice,” said Reicher.

Reicher was assigned a broad range of tasks both administrative and legal.

“I assigned work involving contacting clients and escorting them to court, drafting legal documents such as affidavits and financial statements, mailing relevant documentation, using ATLAS software as well as filing, scanning and other ad-hoc office tasks,” said Rothschild.

“It involved real ‘hands on’ work and enabled me to make a strong and positive contribution to the firm and to assisting clients with the resolution of their disputes,” he said.

“My highlight was representing a client in the Magistrates Court with leave of the court.”

Rothschild’s advice to students looking to gain as much from work experience placements; as Reicher noted, legal work isn’t just about legal knowledge.

“Display professionalism at all times and commence work with a genuine desire to learn and a ‘can do attitude’. Remember to ask questions if unsure. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from an existing professional in the legal field,” she said.

Reicher also recommends seeking out legal work experience while undertaking your degree, so as to understand what working in law is really like.

“It’s an opportunity to gain a real insight into the workings of a law firm and an understanding of how legal services are provided to clients in the real world. It provides you with a unique range of practical skills and competencies that will help you establish a successful career as a lawyer.”

The College of Law works with employers to find suitable college students and graduates for placements in our Work Experience Placement Scheme. This story was a snapshot of such a placement.