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Clayton Utz

  • #4 in Law
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Tae Kim

Every day on the job is different and you're constantly being exposed to new things, which means that I'm given genuine and meaningful learning opportunities. 

What did you study at university?

I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Law and Society, and then went on to study a postgraduate Juris Doctor degree at the University of Western Australia. I actually started university with the intention of completing a science degree (majoring in physiology) but soon realised it wasn't what I wanted to do, so I switched courses after my first year of university. 

What made you interested in commercial law?

Leaving high school, I never had any particular ambitions to study law or work in the legal industry. Up to that point, I'd always been more interested in maths and science and didn't particularly enjoy reading or writing, so becoming a lawyer certainly wasn't on my mind.

Towards the end of my first year at university, I enrolled in an 'intro-to-law' elective unit (because I guess that's what you do when you don't know what you want to do). This unit covered, at a very basic level, multiple areas of law including criminal law, torts and contract law. Despite my limited expectations, I found the content to be really interesting and was surprised by, firstly, how the law can impact so much of our day-to-day lives and society more generally and, secondly, the fact that many of the analytical and critical thinking skills that you would normally expect to employ in a science or mathematics discipline were transferrable to law. 

Despite my aversion to reading, I found myself reading (a LOT) because of how much I enjoyed the subject matter, and that's when I quickly changed my undergraduate major to Law and Society, supplemented by some Business Law elective units.

During my time at university, I started volunteering at a community legal centre, then called the Employment Law Centre of WA, and shortly after this, continued to work there as a paralegal providing pro bono legal assistance to vulnerable clients in relation to their employment law issues. I found this experience to be rewarding, not just because of the positive impact of the work, but also because it gave me the opportunity to learn a complex area of law and to develop my ability to clearly and concisely convey difficult concepts to clients whilst providing them with practical advice on their issues - skills that lawyers working in all areas of law rely on, not just in commercial law. 

At the same time, I also applied for paralegal and vacation clerkship (internship) roles at various law firms and was exposed to commercial law. Additionally, after speaking to numerous lawyers (including many who work in the commercial law space) at both work and at university career fairs about their experiences, I became interested in pursuing a career in commercial law. This was mainly due to the kinds of complex and high-calibre work that large commercial law firms are regularly involved in and the incredible learning opportunities that this would entail.  

Tell us about your experience so far at Clayton Utz (including what your role is)?

My first experience working at Clayton Utz was when I participated in a vacation clerkship with the firm in late-2019. Following this, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a paralegal at Clayton Utz while completing my law degree and before starting as a Law Graduate in 2021. 

The firm supports you through a two-year graduate program, which generally involves three six-month rotations in different practice groups, and during your first year, they also support you to complete a Practical Legal Training course which is a pre-requisite to being admitted to legal practice. 

I was admitted as a lawyer in November of 2021 and am currently working as a first-year lawyer in the Perth office seeing through the rest of the graduate program. So far, I have completed rotations in both the Restructuring & Insolvency and Commercial Litigation practice groups and have enjoyed every moment of it (although, admittedly, some moments more than others)!

Aside from the obvious benefits of working at a firm like Clayton Utz - such as being involved in many interesting and high-profile matters, having the benefit of exceptional training programs and the regular office Friday night drinks (among other social events and perks) - I've found that a distinguishing feature of Clayton Utz is its inclusive and open culture. 

You really can bring your whole self to work, and the firm's numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives exemplify this, allowing people to truly immerse themselves in all the opportunities that their work has to offer. 

There's also a real sense of community involvement and corporate social responsibility, both in respect of pro bono work (with Clayton Utz being internationally recognised in this space) and the firm's broader involvement with community and charitable organisations through the Clayton Utz Foundation and the Community Connect programs in each office.   

What's one thing you love about your job?

I love how much variety there is in the work. Every day on the job is different and you're constantly being exposed to new things, which means that I'm given genuine and meaningful learning opportunities. 

I'll more often than not be working on matters together with a team of other lawyers who are generous with their time in terms of providing me with mentoring and support, but I've also had the opportunity to work directly with partners on certain smaller-scale commercial matters which allows me to apply myself in ways that I perhaps otherwise wouldn't. 

As a Law Graduate, you are also assigned your own pro bono file (supervised by a partner), which provides you with further opportunities to gain experience running your own matters.

There's a real sense that the firm is willing to invest in your personal development, which makes coming to work each day exciting.

What is the limitation of your job?

Not every task that you're asked to do will be enjoyable or fun. Given the complexity and scale of many matters that the firm is involved in, you're bound to be involved in some mundane tasks or "grunt work".  It's just part-and-parcel of the role, but being diligent in completing that work gives you an opportunity to get involved in other more exciting aspects a matter (which there is no shortage of). 

Having said this, the people at the firm, at every level, are all very supportive so there's never a sense of hesitation when it comes to asking a question or asking for help. 

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

  1. Be curious, ask questions and engross yourself in everything that there is to learn. When you start working in a corporate environment, you're often under time pressure to complete tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible which means that you don't always have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in certain things as you would when you're at university. Most skills you'll need you'll learn on the job, but it doesn't hurt to pay close attention in Contract Law 101!
  2. Be intentional about building relationships. Get to know as many people as you can who are going through the same experiences as you. Many of the relationships you form in university will last a lifetime, which will help you to form an invaluable support network going forward. Also, be kind to people - life's not a zero sum game…
  3. Make sure to maintain balance and don't forget to have fun! Keep doing the things that you enjoy, whether that's a certain sport, playing an instrument or spending time with the people that mean the most to you. Trust me, you'll thank yourself for it.