Participant in ADLS Work Experience programme “wouldn’t hesitate” to do it again
“The circular logic of finding a job can be baffling and disheartening: needing work experience to get work experience to have work experience. How, then, does a law student get lucky in a competitive market?”
Such were the musings of Isabelle Russell, before she found out about ADLS’ Work Experience programme when it launched in Auckland in 2015, and her luck changed with a successful placement at Auckland firm McVeagh Fleming.
“Being a part of the 2015 pilot of the ADLS’ Work Experience programme has enabled me to get my foot in a law firm’s door, and stay,” she says.
The programme, run by ADLS in association with a number of University Law Students’ Societies around the country, connects 4th and 5th year law students seeking part-time paid or volunteer work experience with law firms. Firms get the opportunity to work with students they select on tasks that may require some additional assistance, while students get valuable experience of how a law firm operates.
After being interviewed by partners Alissa Bell and James Varney, who respectively head the firm’s family and commercial teams at its Albany office, Ms Russell was welcomed into the firm. She started out as a research clerk in McVeagh Fleming’s family law team, which entailed summer-clerking as well as a “part-time gig” throughout 2016 while Ms Russell completed her final year of an LLB/BA.
In a true success story, this then transitioned into an offer to Ms Russell of a full-time graduate position as a law clerk, with a view to joining the family law team as a solicitor post-admission.
“Family law was an elective which particularly resonated with me at the University of Auckland Law School, so I am thrilled to be immersed in it at McVeagh Fleming,” she says. “And while my interest in family and relationship property continues to grow, McVeagh Fleming has always offered diversity of work and exposure to its full spectrum of practice areas. The mentorship I continue to receive is invaluable.”
Ms Russell says that now, nearly 18 months on, her role has evolved from almost exclusively research and opinion-writing into the broader development of practice skills, “mirroring my evolution from university student to almost-lawyer”.
“Starting as a research clerk has given me the opportunity not only to learn how to build spot-on search strings in Westlaw, but to build up my general legal knowledge and get acquainted with working in a law firm.
“To have had this opportunity throughout university has been a way to ease into the world of ‘Being a Lawyer’. Whether it’s drafting letters and documents, reviewing files, making notes on Police disclosure, observing the partners, solicitors and staff, or interacting with clients, I am always upskilling and absorbing.
“Before joining McVeagh Fleming, I was not sure whether I wanted to become a lawyer or pursue an alternative path. Through this work experience and exposure to life in a law firm, I am certainly looking forward to being admitted. Over the past 18 months, the firm has provided me with excellent day-to-day care and upheld my welfare and best interests. I have no plans for relocation and, who knows, the ADLS Work Experience placement may have even found me a ‘home for life’!”
McVeagh Fleming partner Alissa Bell, with whom Ms Russell works, has also found the experience of using ADLS’ Work Experience programme to be a very positive one.
“The programme has been fantastic and our firm will certainly use it again in the future. I would not hesitate to recommend this to other practitioners,” she says. “When Isabelle started with us, she was working a few hours a week around her study commitments as a research clerk. She was able to help with a variety of tasks such as assisting with preparing evidence, writing articles for marketing materials, as well as providing research and opinions on a myriad of topics lawyers across the firm were working on.
“She soon proved an invaluable resource for the firm. We were able to employ her for greater hours as her study commitments changed and we are thrilled that she has now accepted a graduate position.”
Students and firms wanting more information on the ADLS Work Experience programme in their area should contact ADLS on (09) 303 5270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Terms and conditions apply, for full details please click here.