Saturday, March 17, 2012

Meet the profession AKA an exercise in self-degradation

In the midst of doing some highly productive study for evidence I have decided to put a stop to such momentum and blog.

Recently I attended a ‘Meet the profession’ evening being held by the Law Student Society. As a member of the society I was more or less obliged to part with the $40 and schmooze/brown nose at the event. Maybe it is 4 years of law school which has made me more than a little cynical about such events or maybe in past careers I have had to build a business with actual networking not a contrived and sterile event that leaves me feeling like I wasted my time.

Firstly I must qualify the above statement by telling you that I can see some benefit to attending the event, but only if you are looking for an insight into what it is to work at various firms, and even then to take what you are told with a grain of salt.

The evening starts with various people with either blue name cards (who are the ‘profession’) or white ones (who are the ‘students’) milling around awkwardly, however as the free wine and beer took its hold things got a touch more loose and social. Law students seem to be a desperate bunch, with each one of us trying everything we can to make sure we are not still working at a fast food joint or retail outlet once we have our law degrees. The students then start trying to ‘make an impression’ on these lawyers, however after a little digging it became apparent many of the lawyers were recent graduate who would hold little or no ‘pull’ come application time. I found this game to be depressing and hardened my resolve to be my own boss.

It is about this time of year applications for clerkships open and close, it’s a cruel game where students apply to as many firms as they can ‘tailoring’ each cover letter to the firm to make it sound like they handpicked the firm to apply to because they really wanted to work at ‘Medium to Small Not Very Interesting Firm’. The clerkship game makes me feel ill. Not because of all the work being put into it with the slim to tiny chance of getting a clerkship where you will then be pitted against 15 other clerks all vying for the same 2 positions. No, it is because we are reducing ourselves to begging for the opportunity to put into practice what we have been killing ourselves studying to do.

Instead of walking out of the evening feeling like I had met key people I want to form a close professional relationship in that they may ‘put in a good word’ for an application. To me it was a law version of the Hunger Games. (stop sniggering at my poor, pop trash taste in books)

I am also very aware I am in the privileged position to go to such an event with no view of networking because I have an excellent job I will very happily stay at once I graduate.

Now to regain that momentum I lost. – Obiter

Friday, March 2, 2012

On being in court as a Clerk

I am sure we all think things we would never, ever say. I often do, but recently I have had this fear the filter between my brain and mouth will fail. It started with the little things such like when doing Jessup the judges are addressed at ‘Your Excellency’ where in the real courts in Australia they are addressed as ‘Your Honour’. More than once while addressing a Magistrates ‘You Excellency’ has almost fallen out of my mouth, it came out like your ‘Exel-Onour’, pretty sure I am the only one that noticed but still.. Then there is this very particular way of talking to a judge, all too formal and full of wankery I am yet to wrap my head around.

A fair whack of my job is sitting in court waiting for all the barristers and solicitors to be called on to have their matter mentioned and subsequently moved through the criminal court process before the clerks. This can mean sitting in a court from 9:00 to about 11:00 or 12:00 before my file is called. Usually what I need to say is along the lines of:

‘Good morning Your Honour. For the record my name is Ovum spelt O V U M initials O a law clerk for Great Firm seeking leave to appear on behalf of Ms Smith. (Magistrate gives me leave, unless it is a particular Magistrate who likes to toy with clerks and answers with a ‘Depends Mr Ovum’) ‘Your Honour, case conferencing has commenced and we are seeking an X week adjournment to allow case conferencing to continue’. They usually grant the time sought and I get to go back to the office.

When asked by a Judge weather I am aware of a particular thing on a case which I have little to no knowledge about instead of simply saying ‘I don’t know, can I make a call?’, the correct protocol is to say something to the effect of ‘my apologies Your Honour, I do not have those instructions or carriage of the matter, may I seek a adjournment so I can call the Solicitor who can give me the proper instructions,? Thank you.’

Yes it may seem simple enough but when you are expecting to say a very quick 3 lines, get given a date and that is all any deviation from what I am expecting terrifies me, especially because often have little to no idea of what is going on with the file. When they are asking a question my internal monologue is ‘shit, shit, shit, I don’t know, shit, the magistrate is going to spank me, shit’. I am constantly scared when answering I will just babble like a fool or get it wrong. Mooting has actually helped with this but wow it is still terrifying.

I thought my job was going to help with my mooting, turns out the mooting has actually helped with the real world - funny that.

Today is one of those days where you left your house/car keys at work, travel in only to realise the swipe key is also on the desk, you are also locked out of the house and nobody is home so blogging from uni and maybe a little forced study is in order.

Going to be a long, boring day – Obiter.